Alexander Used to Be Rich
All Classroom LessonsA Lesson for Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade
Jane Crawford
Overview of Lesson
This lesson is appropriate for children who recognize coins and have been introduced to coin values. Follow the instructions in the lesson that allow different levels of ability to participate. Many children can relate to Alexander’s quandary in the book Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. Feeling rich after just receiving money for his allowance, Alexander somehow spends all he has within a short amount of time, leaving him with only bus tokens. After reading the book, students take on the task of keeping track of Alexander’s money. Using addition and subtraction skills, students track Alexander’s coins as they hear the story again—until Alexander has no coins left.
Students then think about ways to help Alexander make financially smart decisions in the future; they may write a letter to Alexander or draw pictures representing their advice to him. The problemsolving context of this lesson makes it rich both mathematically and financially—albeit Alexander is now poor!
Mathematics Goals
Students will:
• use addition and subtraction to solve problems
• skip count
• solve word problems involving money
Economic Goals
Students will show understanding of the Concept of Wants and Needs by:
• explaining that individuals and families cannot have everything they want
• identifying examples of wanting more than we have
• explaining why wanting more than we have requires people to make choices
Time
1 class period
Materials
• 7 dimes, 4 nickels, and 10 pennies per student
• Alexander’s Money (Reproducible 4.3a), 1 copy per student
• A Letter to Alexander (Reproducible 4.3b), 1 copy per student
Teaching Directions
Part 1: Reading the Book

Gather students in the wholegroup area of your classroom. Read the book Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday to students, making sure they can see the illustrations.

After reading Alexander’s story, ask students, “What happened to Alexander’s money?” Listen while students retell what happened to Alexander’s money. Ask the key questions.
Part 2: Counting Alexander’s Money

Explain to students that they are now going to keep track of Alexander’s money with him. Give one copy of the recording sheet Alexander’s Money (Reproducible 4.3a) and a set of coins to each student. Have students count their set of coins to make sure they each have seven dimes, four nickels, and ten pennies.

Ask students to place the coins in the appropriate places on the graph on their recording sheet. If you are working with young children, you may have to review coin values.

Ask students to complete the statements at the top of the graph.

Once all students have their coins on their graphs and have completed the statements, reread the book. As you come to each amount Alexander used, give students time to remove the corresponding number of coins from their graphs. Instruct students to put the coins they remove back into the bags. Each time, stop and recount the coins with students. Ask students, “How much money is left?”

Continue reading the story, repeating Step 6 until students’ graphs no longer have any coins.

Ask students to now count the coins in their bags. Does the number match the number on the list in the bag? Collect all coin sets.
Teaching Insight:
Picture Books
When reading picture books in wholegroup settings, consider using a document camera or some form of technology that will project the illustrations for the whole class to more easily see.
Teaching Insight:
Sets of Coins
Put each set of coins in plastic sandwich bags ahead of time. Include a note in each bag that lists the number of coins that should be in it. Have students count the coins against the list before returning each bag to you at the end of the lesson.
Key Questions
 Did Alexander plan ahead for spending his money? Did he want to save any money?
 What did he want to save for?
 Do you think Alexander will ever save enough money to buy what he wants?
 If you could give Alexander advice, what would it be?
 What should Alexander’s parents do?
Part 3: Writing a Letter to Alexander

Ask students, “Does Alexander need help?” The consensus should be “yes!” Explain to students that one way to help Alexander might be to write a letter of advice to him. They should advise Alexander on what he needs to do when he gets money. Give each student a copy of A Letter to Alexander (Reproducible 4.3b). Students who are not able to write should draw what Alexander should do.

Ask the key questions. Circulate as students are writing their letters, prompting their thinking as needed and making notes about any particular challenges.
Extensions
As an extension to this lesson, mail the letters to the book’s author, Judith Viorst, via the book’s publisher. Encouraging the mailing of lots of letters to Judith Viorst might be overwhelming. Consider instead forwarding a small sample of particularly great letters in hopes that Judith writes back. It’s interesting to note that Judith based her book on a real boy who actually grew up to be a community project lender for a bank!
From Why Can’t I Have Everything? Teaching Today’s Children to Be Financially and Mathematically Savy, Grades PreK2 by Jane Crawford.
© 2016 by Math Solutions, A Division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Permission granted to photocopy for nonprofit use in a classroom or similar place dedicated to facetoface educational instruction
From Why Can’t I Have Everything? Teaching Today’s Children to Be Financially and Mathematically Savy, Grades PreK2 by Jane Crawford.
© 2016 by Math Solutions, A Division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt . Permission granted to photocopy for nonprofit use in a classroom or similar place dedicated to facetoface educational instruction .
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Featured in Math Solutions Online Newsletter, Issue 39
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