Teach Number Operations and Practical Life Skills Using Coupons
by Kristine Lindsay
Finding special education resources to teach students that are on a level that isn’t too childish for older students but appealing to all students with special needs, and that do not have to be overly modified to fit your students’ learning abilities can be a challenge. Teaching basic number operations in a meaningful way to children with learning disabilities needs to be applicable to their lives to retain the information and build real-world life skills.
Students with learning differences and in special education classes learn basic number operations best through real-world applications. Coupons are a convenient and fun tool in helping struggling learners improve their mathematic skills in relevant ways.
When I taught in a special education elementary classroom, I found that my students were able to add and subtract monetary amounts better when the materials related to a life skill they could use or observe daily. I created several hands-on strategies using coupons and grocery store ads that helped struggling learners improve their addition, subtraction, and problem-solving skills.
Here are some of the strategies I used successfully with individuals and in group activities:
Needed Materials: a variety of coupon flyers and multiple grocery store ads
1. Parts and Purpose of a Coupon: Have students create grocery lists with 3 items and look through coupon flyers to find as many coupons as they can for those items. Have students identify the coupons’ attributes, including product, value, brand, restrictions, and expiration dates. Discuss the purposes of coupons and when they do or do not save shoppers money. Explain that students may find several coupons for an item, but the “best deal” is based on price, coupon value, or size/quantity of the item.
2. Subtraction: Give students pre-made grocery receipts, listing 3 items and their prices with a subtotaled amount. Have students find a coupon for one of the items on the list. Students will subtract the values of the coupons from their subtotals to find the totals to be paid. Discuss what using a coupon does to the total amount paid.
3. Addition and Subtraction: Give students pre-made grocery receipts listing 5 items and their prices with a subtotaled amount. Have students find one coupon per item on their lists, knowing that some items will not have coupons. Then, have students add the values of their coupons and subtract the total values of the coupons from the receipts’ subtotals. Discuss what using several coupons does to the total amount paid.
4. Two-Step Problems: Instruct students to create a shopping list of 5-8 items and try to find one coupon per item. Then, have students add their items’ prices to find a subtotal, and add their coupons’ values. Subtract the coupons’ values from their subtotals to find their total amounts paid. Students can swap lists with other groups for more practice.
For more activities and practice sheets on using coupons as math manipulatives, see the Coupon Math program I wrote that was inspired by my teaching needs for special education materials that are relevant and fun. This program is an appropriate elementary special education curriculum for introducing and reinforcing addition, subtraction, two-step problems, and problem-solving strategies. It is also a great secondary special ed resource for reviewing and reteaching number operations and money concepts to middle school and high school students with special needs.