Comparison Shopping: Math Lesson Plan for Middle School Students

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Comparison Shopping

So what is comparison shopping? And why is comparison shopping suddenly a part of the math curriculum that I should be teaching in junior high?

Comparison shopping means quite simply the ability to compare one item with another. In a shopping context, it means showing students the parameters they can use to make a balanced and informed choice when they are shopping for food, clothing, home hoods, entertainment items or music, or indeed any of the other countless purchases made by teenagers every day!

Comparison shopping involves teaching students to:


Here is a simple example for a lesson on comparison shopping. Feel free to adapt it to suit your needs.

  1. Provide students with a range of advertising materials, such as catalogs, online advertising examples, or radio advertisements (Be sure you don’t breach copyright for your state or country).
  2. Discuss the advertising, and make a class list of the features observed (such as use of celebrities, bright colors, lack of detail of product contents, appeal to particular audiences)
  3. Ask students to choose five items (food products work well for a lesson on comparison shopping) and research more detail about their contents. Find out pack size, weight, volume, number of items within a pack etc. Then, most importantly, find out the cost. Have them do this for at least three manufacturers of the same item. So students will research, for example, corn flakes made by company A, B and C.
  4. Divide the class into small groups.
  5. Have each group prepare a report for the class on the food items researched within their group. Ask them to make a chart comparing the features of their compared shopping items, and to make a final recommendation. Importantly, they should give reasons for their findings.

Modification for Students with Learning Disabilities

Teachers often struggle to find reasonable content for older students with learning disabilties. Comparison shopping is an important area to cover for these students, as it links well with the life skills area of the curriculum. To use comparison shopping as one of your lesson plans for learning disabilities, try this:

  • Have students cut out and paste items from a catalog that show what they might have on a shopping list
  • Next to each item, write the cost, and how that item is weighed or measured (ounces, pounds, number in pack etc)
  • Make a large scale shopping list to display in the classroom
  • Next to the shopping list, include a list of ‘comparison shopping tips’ for being a smart shopper. This could include looking at the price, not buying just because of advertising, or checking if the item is good value.