Wacky Wednesday: Gift Card Math
December 30, 2009 in Books with Math Content, Elementary Educators, Making Personal Connections, Personal Connections, Picture Book, Preschool to 1st grade teachers, Wacky Wednesday Tags: consumer, economics, gift card math, How Much is a Million, shopping with gift cards, teaching kids gift cards
Yesterday in Barnes and Noble, I overheard a mother trying to explain to her son that he was spending more than his $10 gift card if he purchased the three books in his hand. He would have to make some decisions and put two back. He was not happy, and he couldn’t understand how come his gift card was not like his mom’s credit or debit card. I was only smiling at her conversation because I wasn’t having that difficult discussion with my stepson (on the verge of tears).
Although, I did have a similar conversation with my stepson a few years ago (when he was in first grade). He had gotten a few gift cards for Christmas, and he made some purchases. When we were back at the store, he wanted to make more purchases, and he said, “Do you have my card?” I said, “No, your card has no money left on it.” “Oh,” he said. I thought he understood. When we got back to the car and we were driving home, he said, “Next time, you have to remember my card.”
Children understand money, and they love money. But, do they get the point of gift cards? Older kids do, of course; but what about our younger elementary buddies? Use this time of the season to make sure kids understand the amount of money on their gift cards, that their gift cards are not a credit card, and that they can not spend over that amount unless they have some extra cash to add in. This is also a time to mention that old party pooper–sales tax, and that a $25 gift card cannot purchase a $25 toy or book.
What I try to do with my stepson (who is a tactile learner) is show him the actual cash that his card is worth or at least talk with him about the bills and the amount of money his card is worth (usually by having him draw pictures). We talk about what price range he will have to look in when at the store. I show him the prices on the shelves since very few products have prices written on them anymore. When he starts looking at something that is above his price range, I’ll say something like: “How much is your card worth? How much is that toy? Is that more than your gift card is worth?” I also let him do the entire transaction at the cash register himself. It would be so easy to put his toy with my stuff and use his gift card along with my debit card to pay for the entire cart (which I admit we have done before), but I realized he needs to experience the actual transaction to understand the process.
It’s common for kids to NOT realize how much things are worth when it comes to money, especially since so many transactions these days are done without actual bills and coins. Here is one of my favorite books for explaining how much something is:
So happy gift card shopping! If you are a teacher or you home school your kids, when you are teaching about money, addressing gift cards and credit cards may be helpful at any age!