Learning Math with Money at 99 Ranch Market

Our School of Wonders Elementary children visit a grocery store each week to practice math with money. In continuation of our study of China, we revisited 99 Ranch Market to complete our weekly grocery store field trip. The students reflected upon their first visit to this market as a class and discussed the variety of produce they found that was different from the versions they usually encounter at American supermarkets. They drew pictures of Chinese eggplant and broccoli beside the American versions, and wondered aloud why they appeared so different despite being the same plant.

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Having studied the commonalities of the citrus family, the students chose to focus their trip on exploring another produce family – underground, a.k.a. “the underground family”. Their criteria specified that they were looking for vegetables that grow underneath the ground. After we arrived at 99 Ranch Market, they noticed a whole section of tubers including potatoes, sweet potatoes, white yams, red yams, purple yams, and jicama. The six students were assigned the mission of collecting some of each vegetable, weighing them, and calculating the price based on the value written on the label.

The exercise was an incredible opportunity to practice the fundamentals of multiplication and double-digit addition with carrying in money form, and using decimals. Before even considering the correctness of their sums, the students strove to arrange the relevant numbers in appropriate order and with the proper order of operation.

One question posed was, “If you have four pounds of red yams, and each pound costs 49 cents, how much are you going to pay?”

Setting up the arithmetic problem posed a significant challenge for the student. His first inclination, after stacking four 49’s into afour-addend addition problem, was to draw dots to represent the sums and count them together. He realized quickly this would take too long!


His second attempt was more streamlined – he added 49 and 49, then took that sum and added 49 to it again, and repeated that one more time.


Though this took him some time, this process afforded a lot of practice carrying digits and refining his understanding of place value. And ultimately, it yielded him the right answer!

3Using multiple cues at the grocery store, from the value of a particular produce item listed on small signs, to recording the weight of a selection of tubers and using that figure to structure an addition problem, this grocery store allowed students to apply procedures to real-life information.

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The students worked together weighing, solving problems, and counting money.  This experience brought many math concepts into one, and allowed for higher thinking and problem solving for our students in real-world situations. By going to the grocery store weekly, the children will be able to connect each experience and apply it to more abstract and intricate inquiries as they continue to learn.


“When your child asks, ‘Why is there a moon?’ Don’t reply with a scientific answer. Ask him/her, ‘What do you think?’ They will understand that you are telling them, ‘You have your own mind and your own interpretation and your ideas are important to me.’ Then you and the child can look for answers, sharing the wonder, curiosity –everything. It is not the answers that are important, it is the process –that you and the child search together.” –Carlina Rinaldi







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