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Learning Math, Stretching Dollars, Doing Good

The comments from a group of second-graders during a recent trip to the grocery store weren’t what you might expect.

Instead of “Can we get doughnuts?” or “Why can’t we get the chocolate cereal?” it was “This one is cheaper, let’s get this one,” and “How much money do we have left?”

Lessons about math, money, shopping, food pantries and doing good for one’s community were all built into the trip for the Paris Ridge Elementary students. The learning got started during math lessons in teacher Molly Ulrich’s class. Then they raised $600 from a cookie sale, which they used to shop for items that would be donated to the food pantry at Redeemer Covenant Church.

Evan Standley and Jackson Bernal watch the register totals as they hand over their group’s money
Evan Standley and Jackson Bernal watch the register totals as they hand over their group’s money

On the day of the trip, 60 students were divided into 14 groups, each with $30 to $50 to spend. Each group had a list of items to buy and a parent volunteer to help them navigate the store.

Frugality and budgeting came into play in the produce department, where Zach Kossen’s group decided to pick red apples over green ones “because you can get more for your money.” In the dairy department, Makayla Halblaub used a calculator to check how much her group had spent. In the cereal aisle, a student showed what she had learned about comparison shopping, asking “What’s the generic price and the brand-name price?”

The groups spent about an hour shopping before heading to the checkout aisle, where “I want a Slurpee” was heard but didn’t happen. Second-graders anxiously watched the cash register, wondering whether they would go over their budgets. Ulrich definitely succeeded in her teaching goals, as all of the groups came in under budget and spent nearly the amount they were given, she said. The extra money was used to buy toothbrushes, to be donated as well.

Parent volunteer Kylee Younce didn’t expect that. “I was surprised at how close they were at estimates,” she said. “Every group was debating over which product would be best.”

Student Gavin Fields was less impressed. “I thought we would have more money left,” he said. “We started with $35 and only got 10 things.”

As the students filled their carts full of groceries, Stu Korringa, who works with the church and food pantry, called the activity a “blessing.”

“It’s neat to have 60 kids learn there are food pantries to help people,” he said.

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Math at the Grocery Store

Dutton Community Food Pantry at Redeemer Covenant Church
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Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.

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