K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

The learner will use a bartering system to retrieve a list of needs and then collect personal wants.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes


  • 1 paper bag for each student
  • Enough of the following items for 1 per student:
    • erasers
    • pencils
    • lollipops
    • stickers
    • coupons (homework pass, treat from teacher, etc.)
  • Varying amounts of the following:
    • balloons
    • pennies
    • gum
    • marbles
  • Posted list of needs hung in classroom
  • Posted rules for game


Discuss the differences between wants and needs. Come up with a good working vocabulary and examples for each.


  1. Students sit at their desks. Tell the students that they will play a game called “Barter Bag.” Give each student a bag with various materials with the direction that he/she cannot open the bag until told to do so. Each bag contains varying materials (example - 2 pencils, 5 pieces of gum, 4 pennies, 1 lollipop, and a sticker, while another could contain 2 coupons, one eraser, four pennies, and five balloons). Direct the attention of the students to a posted list of needs hung in the classroom.
  2. In order to keep the items in your bag, you must have at least one of the following items: sticker, eraser, pencil, lollipop, any one coupon. Have the students read the directions aloud to check for understanding. Explain that the students will have a set amount of time (15 mins.) to trade the objects in their bags with others in order to retrieve the list of needs. After they have completed the task, they can continue trading for any other items they may want. They must have received all the needs in order to keep what is in their bags.
  3. To retrieve a needed item, students should trade with others by swapping something from their bag, for instance, one pencil may be exchanged for 3 pieces of gum. Explain that there are enough needs for each student to have only one, so the class should work cooperatively and fairly to help everyone retrieve their needs. Explain that the students have 15 minutes to complete the task and afterward, we will check to see how successful each student was. Teacher sets the time and says “Go!”.
  4. Following the game, have students discuss the process of bartering-list strengths and weaknesses.
  5. Bartering section of The Kid’s Money Book is great to share with students at this time.


Observe the students while they are working. Using post-it notes, write a brief comment on each student during the fifteen minutes. Are they participating? Are they working cooperatively? Are they trading calmly? Did the students successfully retrieve their needs? Did they retrieve any wants?

Supplemental information

The Kids’ Money Book by Neale S. Godfrey

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Grade 2

        • 2.E.1 Understand basic economic concepts. 2.E.1.1 Give examples of ways in which businesses in the community meet the needs and wants of consumers. 2.E.1.2 Explain the roles and impact producers and consumers have on the economy. 2.E.1.3 Summarize the concept...
      • Grade 4

        • 4.E.1 Understand how a market economy impacts life in North Carolina. 4.E.1.1 Understand the basic concepts of a market economy: price, supply, demand, scarcity, productivity and entrepreneurship. 4.E.1.2 Understand how scarcity and choice in a market economy...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 3

  • Goal 5: The learner will apply basic economic principles to the study of communities.
    • Objective 5.01: Define and identify examples of scarcity.
    • Objective 5.02: Explain the impact of scarcity on the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.