Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: The Big Buck Adventure

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If you’re in search of a book to teach economics in your classroom, look no further than The Big Buck Adventure written by Shelley Gill and Deborah Tobola and illustrated by Grace Lin.  This colorful, rhyming picture book tells the story of a young girl who receives one dollar from her dad to spend any way she likes.  But as she searches for exactly the right thing(s) to buy, she finds that the decision is harder than she thought it would be.

The book begins when the narrator and her dad are driving into town.  She says, “Saturday morning, I sure am in luck!  A raise in allowance–I get a buck!” As she begins to shop, however, she realizes there are many things she could buy with her dollar, and quickly becomes overwhelmed with the choices.  By the end of the story, she thinks: “Now I wish I didn’t have so much money.  At first this was fun, now it’s not even funny!”  Ultimately, the narrator decides to save the dollar and is quite happy with her choice: “My father walks in.  ‘Hi, honey!  Any luck?’  I just have to laugh as I pocket my buck.”

Curriculum Connections

The Big Buck Adventure could be used in many different ways in the classroom.  Because of the choices the narrator must make, the text is applicable to SOLs focusing on opportunity cost (History/Social Studies 1.8, 1.9, 2.9, 3.9).  Math lessons might also be structured around this book, because the narrator must calculate exactly how many things she can buy with her money.  Reading the book aloud would be a great way to introduce either of these types of lessons; and because the text is very conducive to class discussion, using The Big Buck Adventure would be a fantastic way to get students thinking about real-world connections to what they are learning.

Additional Resources

  • The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has provided a great collection of information about dollar bills, how they are made, and what the symbols on the bills actually mean.  The information could easily be adapted into an interesting lesson about money!

  • Where’s George? is a really interesting and fun way to show students how far their money can travel.  By entering the serial number on any dollar bill, students can track where their money has been–all across the country! 

  • If you’re looking for ways to extend the concept of what students can purchase for one dollar, the World Resources Institute provides a list of how far a dollar can stretch in different countries.  Students can learn how the value of their money matches up to purchases in Africa, India, and South America.

General Information

Book: The Big Buck Adventure
Author: Shelley Gill and Deborah Tobola
Illustrator: Grace Lin
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 1-4
ISBN-13: 978-0881062953