EL Support Lesson

Purchasing Items and Making Change

This lesson provides students with instruction in strategies based on number sense. Use this lesson alongside Show Me the Money: Understanding Value or as a stand-alone lesson.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Show Me the Money: Understanding Value lesson plan.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Show Me the Money: Understanding Value lesson plan.
  • Students will be able to identify the value of coins and dollars.
  • Students will be able to make change with coins.

Students will be able to identify how much change they need using a graphic organizer and strategies of their choice.

(4 minutes)
  • Gather students together and say, "Raise your hand if you have been shopping before! What does it mean to go shopping? Turn and talk to your partner and share your idea." Provide a sentence stem to support student discussion:
    • When you go shopping, you ____.
  • Ask students to think about some of the things they go shopping for. Write their ideas on the board. Next, ask students what they use to purchase, or buy, the items they are shopping for. Ask students to turn and talk to a partner to share their answers. Allow a few students to share their answers aloud with the class.
  • Explain to the students that when we go shopping, we use money to purchase the items we want or need. Show the students a dollar bill and a quarter, dime, nickel, and penny. Say, "Do you know what any of these items are? Turn and talk to your elbow partner, telling your partner what you know about these items."
  • Allow a student to share out their answer with the class and provide sentence stems/frames as needed to support student discussion.
  • Explain to the students that today they will be working with story problems where people purchase items using coins. Share that knowing how to make change is important for the sales clerk and the customer so they can make sure to give and receive the right amount of change after purchasing something!"
(10 minutes)
  • Ask students to get out their math journals. Pass out the Vocabulary Cards worksheet to each student and project it on the whiteboard. Read through the student-friendly definitions, referring to the visuals to support student understanding. Ask students to share a few of the definitions in their own words with an elbow partner. Provide sentence stems and frames as needed.
  • Turn on your computer and project the Money Math: Shopping with Penelope game. After the game says, "How much money is shown?" turn down the volume on your computer. Explain to the students that Penelope is shopping and she has a certain amount of coins to purchase things with. Encourage a student to explain what the word purchase means in their own words.
  • Ask students to take a moment to look at the coins that are shown on the game. Tell the students, "I see four different coins. Can anyone help me figure out what the coin names and values are? Think-pair-share with an elbow partner, using this sentence frame to share your thoughts:"
    • I see a ____. I know it is a ____ because ____.
  • Have students draw a picture of each of the coins in their math journals (quarter, dime, nickel, penny). Write the values of the coins above each coin projected on the whiteboard (do not use decimals or the dollar sign, just the values, e.g. 5, 25, etc.)
  • Ask students to choral chant the coin names and values as you point to them:
    • A ____ (coin name) is worth ____ (coin value).
  • Continue playing the Money Math: Shopping with Penelope game and model how to combine, or add, the coin values using strategies like addition, skip counting, a hundreds board, etc., to find the total value of all the coins. Next, ask a student to help you figure out how to put twenty-four cents in the cash register. Finally, encourage students to think-pair-share to figure out the value of the change Penelope has left after spending twenty-four cents.
  • Ask a partnership to share their thinking aloud, using sequencing words to explain their process (first, next, then, finally). Support students as they model detailing their steps.
(10 minutes)
  • Put students in partnerships. Pass out whiteboards and markers, hundreds charts, number lines, manipulatives, and other resources to support students in their mathematical sense-making.
  • Write the following story problem on the board:
    • Penelope went to the store. Penelope wanted to buy a new sparkly pen that cost 54 cents. She had 75 cents. How much change did Penelope get back?
  • Project the Making Change Reflection Template on the board. Read through the template and explain to the students that it is a graphic organizer. Tell the students that graphic organizers are tools that help us organize our thoughts and solve problems.
  • Read the story aloud once. Point to each section title on the Making Change Reflection Template and model filling in the correct information, referring back to the story problem to show students where you found the information. Encourage students to use their vocabulary cards to figure out tricky content words on the worksheet, such as customer and purchase.
  • Ask students to help you figure out a strategy to use to solve the problem. Say, "How should I figure out how much change Penelope has left after purchasing the sparkly pen? Turn and talk to a partner, explaining your idea."
  • Model solving the problem. Ideas include a standard subtraction algorithm (75 – 54), using a number line, hundreds board, or writing down 54 —> 75 and explaining to the students that the target number is on the right (how much money the customer has) and the purchase price is one the left (how much money the sparkly pen costs).
  • Encourage a couple of students to come up to the board to explain how they figured out the difference between the two numbers. Discuss the solution methods used by different children. Record one or two of the strategies on the graphic organizer and finish the worksheet by discussing how much change Penelope will have left after her purchase. Record the answer in the correct space.
  • Challenge students by asking them to draw a picture of the change Penelope received. Ask students to label the coin names and values (e.g. two dimes and a penny, four nickels and a penny, etc.).
(10 minutes)
  • Write a new story problem on the board. If some partnerships are ready for a challenge, provide them with a story problem where the customer starts with an amount greater than a dollar.
  • Provide one copy of the Making Change Reflection Template to each partnership.
  • Rotate around the room and observe students as they read through the story problem and fill out the graphic organizer. Use prompting questions to elicit deep thinking and help students orally explain the process they used to solve the problem. Some examples include:
    • How did you decide where to start?
    • Which resources did you use to help you solve the problem? (e.g. number line, vocabulary cards, manipulatives, etc.)
    • Did you try something that didn't work? How did you know that it wouldn't work?
  • Write down sentence stems/frames on small whiteboards to support students who need further scaffolding as they share their ideas with you.


  • Provide students with definitions in English and their home language (L1).
  • Act out a scenario where the student is the customer and the teacher is a sales clerk to help students understand what the lesson is about.
  • Encourage students to draw a picture that shows what is going on in the story problem, including the possible coins the customer may start with and end with.


  • Encourage students to bring money in from their country of origin to share with the classroom (if applicable). Encourage students to explain the similarities and differences they notice using adjectives (smaller, bigger, green, shiny, etc.)
  • Provide students with sequencing words or cards to support them as they detail the processes they use to solve problems and figure out the amount of change.
  • Ask students to rephrase story problems in their own words, without looking at the whiteboard.
  • Encourage students to use a few of the 5 W's (e.g. who purchased what?) in their explanations.
(3 minutes)
  • Collect student work and bring students back together.
  • Discuss strategies each partnership used to figure out the story problem. Provide students with a sentence stem to support their discussion:
    • We figured out how much change was left by ____.
    • The strategy we used was ____ and it worked because ____.
    • The strategy we used was ____ and it did not work because ____.
(3 minutes)
  • Have students do a think-pair-share, finishing one or two of the following question or sentence stems:
    • When I go shopping, it is important to understand change because ____.
    • The customer is the person who ____.
    • To purchase something means that you ____.
    • Next time I encounter a similar problem, I will ____.

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