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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



  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 curriculum alignment

Science (2005)

Grade 9–12 — Biology