Playing Store For Math

Learning about money is about more than just knowing what each coin and bill are worth, it’s about actually using money confidently to do everyday things.  Money is of course used primarily in financial transactions, especially when we go to the store.  So playing store for math makes sense.

playing store for math

I’ve been doing math intervention, going back over basic principles of arithmetic with all four of my younger kids, because the older two were struggling with algebra.  You can read more about our math intervention.

Money Basics

First of all, kids need to know the basics.  You should learn or review these things before you begin this lesson.

  • Names and values of coins and bills
  • How to count money amounts
  • How to count money amounts using different coins, like making 75 cents with 3 quarters or making 75 cents with 7 dimes and a nickle.
  • How to make change.  The video below explains how to give change correctly.

Playing Store For Math

Next you are going to use the game of playing store to practice all those skills in a fun way your kids will want to do over and over.

Get out a bunch of ads from various stores.  Give your kids about ten minutes to cut out coupons and ads with prices.  Each cut-out must have a price in order to be used for the games. Grocery store ads are good, but hardware stores, electronics stores, and so on work well too.

play store for math

Ask the kids how they think they could use these coupons to play store.  They will probably have some great ideas that neither you nor I thought of.

Here is one way to play store with these ads.  Give each child some money for the game.  You can use play money or real money.  Set the ads out on a table or counter top or tape them up on a wall.  Let the kids go “shopping” by choosing two or more items.  When they first start or if they are younger it’s best to stick with just two items, then increase the number of items as they become proficient at the game.

play store for math

Have them bring their items up to the check out stand to purchase them.  Then they fill out their own receipt.

Below are some printable receipts, just cut them apart and have the kids fill them out, including their items and then adding to get the total.  There are three different levels of receipts.  The first has space for just two prices.  The second has spaces for many items, meaning the kids have to be able to add long columns of numbers to get the total.  The third has space to figure out the tax as well as the total, meaning kids have to be able to multiply with decimals and do multi-step problems to complete the receipt.


The percent you use for tax should be the real life tax percentage where you live, or you can change it so the kids have to practice with different percentages, maybe using the tax percent in a town near you.  (Some states don’t charge sales tax on food, if yours doesn’t, explain this, but practice with tax percents anyway.)  Calculator usage is up to you.

We save our receipts by gluing them into our math notebooks.

Gamify it

So far it’s not much of a game.  So we need to make some ways to “win”.  Here are things you can give points for:

  • Adding the columns of numbers correctly (The cashier can get points for discovering a mistake)
  • Counting out the correct change to pay for the items, or giving the cashier enough money to cover the cost
  • For the cashier, counting back the change correctly
  • Not buying more than you can afford, the total must be less than or equal to the amount in your pocket
  • Getting closest to a pre-specified total.  For example, you might tell the kids to buy items so that their total is as close as possible to $8.50.  This will force them to do mental math as they are shopping, something real life shoppers do all the time, or at least should do.

Make It Real Life

If you play this game using this week’s ad from your favorite grocery store, you can make up a menu, a shopping list, and then go the store with your real life coupons.  Find a quiet corner in the store and let the child add up the total on a play receipt before you get to the front of the store.  Then have them use actual cash to buy the groceries.  Watch the cashier like a hawk to see how he/she counts back change.  Did he/she give correct change?

Additional Layers

  • Grocery shopping (and handling money) is part of home economics, the science and art of running a household.  You can have a formal home economics course with your kids or make an effort to involve them in every day tasks you do all the time, explaining as you go.
  • Have your kids practice counting money online in a virtual game as well as in real life to mix it up.
  • While you’re at the store teach your kids how to compare prices.  Sometimes the products in the ads aren’t actually the best deal.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for the printable receipts in different levels. I teach 3rd grade and these are great for all levels of learners! I like the idea of using real store receipts from all kinds of stores, not just grocery stores!

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