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Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday

Alignments to Content Standards: 2.MD.C.8



  • Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst


  • Plastic coins
  • Labels for items Alexander spent his money on (attached)
  • Paper coins (attached)
  • Scissors, glue, and construction paper


  • The teacher reads Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday to the class, stopping each time he spends a portion of his money to record on a chart the item(s) and how much he spent.

  • The students identify a combination of coins that could be used for the purchase. The teacher can also model with plastic coins one way to show the amount he spent, with the class following along. If there is more than one set of coins that will work, different students can suggest them to the class.

  • By the end of the story, the amount of money the teacher and each of the students used should add up to one dollar.

  • After the story has been read, the students are given the labels and paper coins to cut out and match together to create posters. It must be made explicit here that the students can only use the coins they have, so there is only one correct solution. What will help them to find the correct solution is to try and show how Alexander spent his money on each item by using the smallest number of coins possible.

IM Commentary

The purpose of this task is for students to find combinations of coins that total the amounts given in a story. Since this task works primarily with coins, it can be given to students fairly early in learning about money and money combinations. Giving the students time to work with both plastic coins and the paper coins will ensure that they can find multiple ways of representing the same amount of money. The teacher can encourage this form of problem solving by extending the lesson later with real-life situations, such as: If you need 50 cents to buy milk in the cafeteria, how many ways could you pay for it?

The problem solving can be further extended by asking students to discuss their posters with each other, comparing the values of money. For example, they can discuss what he spent the most on, how much more he spent on the bubble gum than the snake rental, etc.

Students would also benefit from using real coins during this lesson. Because of the recent introduction of so many "special coins" (state quarters, buffalo nickels, etc) all quarters don't look the same, and all nickles don't look the same. The teacher could ask students to bring in coins fro home or the teacher could supply the coins. Using real coins would enhance the lesson. However the choice to use real money is up to each teacher.