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November 17, 2010 Planning a Turkey Dinner By Brent Vasicek
Grades 3–5, 6–8

    It's getting close to one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The advertisements and deals are plentiful. It's time to see what sort of savvy shoppers you have in your classroom. So grab those ads and get planning a feast of a lesson.

    Image courtesy of the Free Clipart Network.



    Real World Applications

    When a teacher can show real world applications for what they are teaching, the students will buy into the lesson more strongly. On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I travel to a local grocery store and pick up several copies of their advertisements (one copy for each pair or trio of students). I then scour the ads for deals and use them to plan a mathematical worksheet for a Thanksgiving Day Feast, the turkey dinner worksheet. [The 2010 Thanksgiving Worksheet to correlate with some Detroit area Meijer stores]

    The following concepts are covered with this lesson:

    • Addition with money and decimals
    • Multiplication of money by whole numbers
    • Greater than / less than
    • Decision making


    The Mission

    I introduce the lesson with a writing piece. I ask them to reflect upon what they are thankful for. We share a few ideas as a class. I note that I am thankful for my mom having done all the shopping and cooking when I was a kid because as an adult I realize how much work it truly is. After the writing session, I play the Mission: Impossible theme music and pull the envelope that says "Mission" off of the front board.

    I open the envelope and read the math mission inside: "Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to plan a simple Thanksgiving dinner for a dozen people. You must be careful with your budget, and try to come up with the most inexpensive dinner possible. If you accept this mission, give your best turkey impression."

    I then pass out an advertisement and the math worksheet to each group. I do not allow calculators for the first half of the class, but I do allow them for the second. This allows students to check their work and assists groups that are behind.


    • Find advertisements online and do this as a fun "green" computer lab activity.
    • Give the students a budget and see who can create a balanced meal within that budget.
    • Provide coupons (authentic or fake) to add to the decision-making process.


    For a completely different kind of Thanksgiving lesson, visit Scholastic's pages on the Mayflower voyage, also worth checking out this time of year. 

    What Thanksgiving activities do you tie into your curriculum?

    Happy Thanksgiving,






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