Beacon Lesson Plan Library

All I Want for Christmas

Stacy Durham


Students work in pairs to use real life interests to create a wish list from catalogues and sale ads based on a given budget. This lesson gives the students math practice in the areas of addition, subtraction, and estimation with money.


The student chooses, describes and explains estimation strategies used to determine the reasonableness of solutions to real-world problems.


-Toy catalogues
-Newspaper advertisements
-Scratch paper
-One Estimation: Wish List Worksheet per student (in file)
-One Exact Amount: Wish List Worksheet per student (in file)
-One overhead transparency of each worksheet
-Chart tablet


1. Obtain enough newspaper ads and catalogues for each pair of students.
2. Run enough copies of the Actual Cost Wish List worksheet for each student. (download file)
3. Run enough copies of the Estimated Cost: Wish List worksheet for each student. (download file)
4. Make a transparency copy of each of the worksheets.
5. Obtain a chart tablet, to make a list of the vocabulary words and definitions from the lesson.


1. Open by saying, “Oh, there is so much that I want for Christmas, but I don’t have much money. What will I do? Does anyone understand what I mean? Have you ever run out of money at Christmas time, before you have purchased all of your gifts??? We need to figure out a way to solve this problem. What can I do? I think that I need to learn to budget my money.”

2. Go over vocabulary words that they will need for the assignment. (estimation, rounding, budget, exact amount, total) Write these terms and their definitions on a chart tablet for the students to reference throughout the lesson.

3. Explain to the students that they will be doing an activity that will involve budgeting money, estimating costs, adding and subtracting.

4. Explain estimation to the students. Discuss the different times that you would need exact answers and when estimations could be enough. Ask, “Why are estimations helpful?” Give real examples, as well as non-examples for each. Show students how to round and allow them a few minutes to practice from oral examples.

5. List on the board all of the steps you will follow to complete the activity. This will provide the students with constant reminders of the instructions, hopefully, keeping you from having to answer the SAME questions over and over! Go through each step, modeling the activity for the students. Show them, step by step, how to complete the assignment by using the overhead example of the worksheet provided in the attached file. Next, give the students a budget amount, maybe $50.00 to spend.

6. Then pair up the students heterogeneously, and pass out several newspaper ads and catalogues to each pair. The higher level students will be able to assist the lower ones. Next, have the students “go shopping.” They can not “spend” more than they are budgeted.

7. Have the students look through the periodicals and find items that they might want for Christmas, (or another occasion). As you are walking around the room, observe the students to make sure they are on task.

8. The students are to “shop” by recording the items that they would like, and their actual prices, on a piece of scratch paper. Tell them that it is VERY important that they write with a pencil, just in case they make a mistake.

9. Next, the students need to ROUND each price to the nearest dollar and add up their ESTIMATED total, making sure that they have not gone over budget. If they are satisfied with their list, they may continue. If they are not (if it is over budget), they need to delete a few items.

10. Then, hand out the Estimation Worksheet. Have the students copy their estimated lists on to this sheet. They need to record their estimated totals on the bottom lines of the worksheets. Tell them again to keep in mind that they can not spend more than they are budgeted.

11. Next, the students need to add up the exact price of their lists, making sure that they have not gone over budget. If they are satisfied with their lists, they may continue. If they are not (if it is over budget), they need to, they can delete a few items from their lists.

12. Then, hand out the Exact Price Worksheet. Have the students copy their exact price lists onto this sheet. They then need to record their actual totals on the bottom lines of the worksheet.

13. Next, the students need to answer the final questions on the bottom of the worksheets with complete sentences. “When do we need to know exact totals, and when are estimations enough?”

14. Finally, have the students trade their lists with their partners. They will then add up each other’s lists and check the addition. If the math is correct, they will then sign their names on the “verify” line on both of the Wish list worksheets. If they are incorrect, they will hand the papers back to their owners, and the calculations will have to be redone.

15. Wrap up the lesson with a class discussion about the activity. What did they learn from this assignment? How close did they come to their budget? How many items did they have to delete to make budget? How close was the estimated amount to their actual total?


Walk around the classroom, observing each student as they work. Elicit discussions with the groups on budgets and estimation. Talk with the students about the project and the worksheets, discussing your expectations. Finally, assess the students according to the worksheets provided.


This lesson could be modified for students who do not celebrate Christmas, or for use during other times during the year. In that case, the students can choose birthday presents instead of Christmas gifts. The attached worksheets can be used for any occasion.

The lesson could be extended by adding a multiplication practice, having the students figure and add tax to their total. Graphing the relationships between actual cost and estimated amount could also be done. The activity could even be turned into a contest- “Who came the closest, without going over budget?”

The lesson could be integrated with writing, by having the students write a persuasive letter to their parents encouraging them to purchase the items on the list.

Web Links

Web supplement for All I Want for Christmas
Smile Program Mathematics Index

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