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


LEARN NC is no longer supported by the UNC School of Education and has been permanently archived. On February 1st, 2018, you will only be able to access these resources through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. We recommend that you print or download resources you may need before February 1st, 2018, after which, you will have to follow these instructions in order to access those resources.

Learn more

Related pages

  • Mix and match ecology: Symbiosis: In this high-school biology lesson, students gain an understanding of the three kinds of symbiotic relationships by creating relationships between imaginary animals.
  • South Mountains State Park: One of the state's most rugged parks, South Mountains State Park offers a number of activities. Rangers are available to teach students about the mountain watershed and the importance of water stewardship.
  • Tuttle Education State Forest: This state forest has been developed for use as a living outdoor classroom for students and adults to learn about the interdependent ecosystems of the forest.

Related topics


Please read our disclaimer for lesson plans.


The text of this page is copyright ©2009. See terms of use. Images and other media may be licensed separately; see captions for more information and read the fine print.

This lesson primarily addresses goals in biology, however, it provides helpful reinforcement of concepts in civics and economics as well. It is designed to help students understand how ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) can be considered the currency of cells. ATP must be “spent” in order for all metabolic processes to continue. Furthermore, during ATP production, ATP must be “invested” before more ATP can be generated. With this concept in mind, students will use simple financial tables to explore the concepts of cost, revenue, and return on an investment as it applies to ATP in aerobic and anaerobic respiration.

Teacher preparation

Classroom time required

20-30 minutes

Materials Needed

  • A copy of the worksheet for each student (Note: File includes answer key.)
  • One overhead copy of the worksheet for use during explanation


  • Familiarize students with the role of ATP as the primary energy molecule for the cell. Make sure they understand that ATP is generated by phosphorylation of ADP. This activity could serve as an introduction to or a reinforcement of the types of cellular respiration. Either way, students will gain the most from the activity if they already grasp the big picture of respiration — that the process creates energy in the form of ATP from glucose molecules.
  • Discuss briefly a simple textbook diagram of ATP prior to starting the activity.


  1. Have students read the information at the top of the worksheet, either in small groups, as a class, or individually. Then complete the table with Robin’s data.
  2. Make sure each group/student has correctly completed the table and calculated the return on investment before allowing students to continue to the second page.
  3. After completing both pages and answering the questions, ask students to
    compare their answers to other groups/students, and then discuss the answers as a class.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Biology

        • Bio.4.2 Analyze the relationships between biochemical processes and energy use in the cell. Bio.4.2.1 Analyze photosynthesis and cellular respiration in terms of how energy is stored, released, and transferred within and between these systems. Bio.4.2.2 Explain...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 9–12 — Biology

  • Goal 2: The learner will develop an understanding of the physical, chemical and cellular basis of life.
    • Objective 2.03: Investigate and analyze the cell as a living system including:
      • Maintenance of homeostasis.
      • Movement of materials into and out of cells.
      • Energy use and release in biochemical reactions.
    • Objective 2.05: Investigate and analyze the bioenergetic reactions:
      • Aerobic Respiration.
      • Anaerobic Respiration.
      • Photosynthesis.