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How to Teach Discounts

Our next topic of the Consumer Math Blog Series is about how to teach Discounts. Read more about why and how you can teach Discounts using my Discount Lesson Unit (click here to get your copy).


Purpose of Teaching about Discounts

I’m the first to admit I didn’t know what a BOGO was until I worked at Subway restaurant and had to have a veteran employee show me how to put in discount codes when checking a customer out. I was about 16 or 17 years old. So, I consider it safe to say that while students may know that a discount makes a purchase price lower, they may not know the lingo or process for calculating the actual purchase price. That, in and of itself, is the purpose of teaching this important concept!


Discount Lesson Unit


Key-Must-Teach Concepts

A discount is worthless if you don’t have the means to purchase it. No sale is too good if you can’t afford it, and that means cash in hand.


25% = .25 and NOT 25. Being able to convert a percent to a decimal is the first step in calculating a discount and where most students get tripped up in the calculating process. Re-teach, reiterate, and then review this step.



Lesson Objective

Calculate the final cost of a bill with a discount applied.



Lesson Unit Break Down


Day 1- Kick off the week with the brain teaser and then layout the flow chart to show how discounts are a part of spending money (and ultimately a part of a budget). Then, keep it straightforward with the reading passage and subsequent materials. Read the passage as a class, dive into the writing prompts, and then end with the T/F questions. This T/F could serve as the exit slip, if you want to assess where the class is at.


Day 2- As you know by now, this day delves into the concepts through input (examples) and output (writing), i.e. notes. Repetition is a good thing and visuals that compliment the concepts help too. Feel free to use the Exit Slip this day, day 3, or even day 4.


Day 3- The guided practice begins. This worksheet can be completed as a class, in small groups, partners, or independently, your choice! With 10 different scenarios, you could even start as a class with 2, move to small groups or partners for 3 more, then leave the last 5 for independent practice. This worksheet is solely focused on % discounts with round numbers, such as $119.00.


Day 4- As mentioned above, calculating % discounts is the most challenging and thus, the more practice the better. This day is dedicated to independent practice. Using the free PowerPoint in my store, students will work through calculating % discounts, subtotals, and totals. If your students are accurately moving through this concept, feel free to throw in a few of your own, such as a BOGO or Save $ on $.


Day 5- Use the task cards as one last review before the assessment. See the suggestion below. Then, pass out the assessment and follow-up with the word search and functional math review.


***If you want to switch up the word search, then give them the word search for the concept you are going to cover the following week/day. This will get their mind introduced to the vocabulary without any demands.


Discount Lesson Unit


Reading Passage Option

Like I mentioned above, with the similarity in words, phrases, and depth of the discount ideas, I would keep this content as clear as it can with simplicity.



Listen and Learn

A Listen & Learn is a short, 5 sentence PowerPoint/Google presentation that introduces the topic using visuals and audio. Ideal for non-readers! Read about what they are and how they might be right for your classroom here.



Task Card Idea

If you want the class to work as a collective team and earn enough points as a group, then try this activity. Designate a ‘spokesperson,’ and perhaps choose a quieter leader or someone with less confidence or who may struggle with the concepts*. Then have the rest of the class move to the back of the classroom in a big group. Give the Spokesperson the question (verbally without the 2 answer options OR the actual card with the two options). That person will walk the question back to the big group, the class will decide as a group what the right answer is, give their ‘final answer’ to the spokesperson and then the spokesperson will walk it back and read it aloud to you. You could do the whole deck or give the class a goal of right answers (say 10 or 12) and once they hit that goal, move on to the next activity.


*The spokesperson may or may not participate in the group decision (which might be good if the topic was difficult for them), would have the opportunity to always answer correctly (hopefully), and could also show their peers they are confident and comfortable taking the lead (for those more quiet, reserved leaders).


Further Practice Idea

Request some money from your department and go out on a field trip to a local grocery store, restaurant, and do the discount calculations in real life, with the object in hand! You can do some pre-planning and search websites, social media, or newspapers for discounts to print or you can give each student a specific budget (see how I roped in another consumer math topic so smoothly), and let them spend it on anything that is on sale!


For example, this could mean buying 2 bottles of apple juice for $6.00 if the budget is $7.00, or grabbing a BOGO free ice cream bar, or a fruit smoothie flavor of the day that is 10% off. Be sure to stress that your receipt is proof of the discount used and the change received.



Ultimate Goal of the Lesson Unit

The ultimate goal is two-fold.


1st fold- What does the discount mean and will it apply to my purchase. Meaning: Do I have two of the same product to get a BOGO? Have I spent enough money for $5 off $20? Does my Student ID get me 10% or 15% off this slice of pizza?


2nd fold- What steps do I follow to calculate the discount. Meaning: Is 10% .10 or .010? Do I subtract or add or multiply or divide?


Accurately achieving those two parts should mean 100% on that final assessment.


Discount Lesson Unit


May I Also Suggest Teaching

If you are using a discount that means you are purchasing something, so go ahead and pair this lesson with Sales Tax and Budget Lesson Units.


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