Students Have Fun Shopping in This Real-World Activity that Teaches Decimals

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Gather Your Supplies

For this activity, you will need:

  • Catalogs
  • 12 x 18 paper
  • Calculators
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Crayons or colored pencils
  • Pencils
  • Scrap paper
  • Large calculator which can be viewed by the class

Tip: Keep every catalog you get sent in the mail, and tell your friends and family members to do the same. They come in handy for school activities throughout the year.

Review Adding & Subracting Money

  • Pass out calculators to students.
  • Review adding and subtracting decimal numbers on the chalkboard. Do two to three examples of each type. Concentrate specifically on monetary examples.
  • Review adding and subtracting decimal numbers on a calculator. Use a large calculator which can be viewed by the class.

Overview of the Project

Explain to students that they will go catalog shopping. Each student has an imaginary $150.00 to spend. He/she must purchase at least three items and get as close as he/she can to $150.00 without going over the amount. Students do not need to include tax or shipping.

Students need to use scrap paper and pencil to make notes while they decide which items to purchase. Students should use a calculator to add and subtract the decimal amounts.

After each student decides which items to purchase, he/she will cut out the items, glue them on 12 x 18 paper, write the description and price of each item, and then add and write the total cost of the items.

Guided Practice

  • Pass out the paper, glue, scissors, and crayons or colored pencils.
  • Students start the project and the teacher circulates through the class to help students as needed.

Independent Practice

  • Students complete the project as instructed.


  • If time allows, students can share in small groups what they purchased.

  • The class may also discuss what was easy and difficult about the project.

  • Remind students how they use decimal numbers in their everyday lives.

Additional Options

  • Have students calculate the cost of shipping and include that in their total amount.

  • Have students calculate sales tax and include that in their total amount.

  • Set-up a bank. Have students pay and make change for their purchases.

  • Have students purchase their items using an imaginary credit card. Calculate how much students will pay for their purchases if it takes 3-6 months to pay off the charge.

This engaging project will challenge your students to think about how math is used in real-world activities they and their families engage in frequently, such as shopping for food, household items and clothes. By including the additional options in the lesson plan, you can further reinforce common activities such as cashiering, banking and using a credit card.