Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: Arthur’s Funny Money

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Arthur’s Funny Money, written and illustrated by Lillian Hoban, is a story about Arthur and his younger sister Violet. Violet is learning her numbers and asks Arthur for some help figuring out a problem.  He promises to help her but first needs her help to earn enough money to buy a shirt and cap for his Frisbee team.  Violet offers some suggestions to earn the money, like running errands or washing cars, but Arthur doesn’t like any of those ideas.   Arthur decides he’ll wash bikes to earn the rest of his money.  However, before he can start his bike washing business he needs to buy soap and a brush.  He uses the money he has to buy his supplies and then sets up his business. Some of his friends show up to get their bikes washed but some of them want deals and half prices washes because they brought their skateboard or they have a tricycle instead of a bicycle.  Arthur works out some deals and washes all their bikes and other wheeled things.  While he’s washing, Arthur has Violet keep track of the money he makes on a piece of paper.  After finishing all the bikes Arthur realizes he is out of soap so he and Violet go back to the story to buy more.  When they get to the store the soap is more expensive this afternoon then it was earlier in the morning.  Instead of buying it, they decide to go to another store and see if the soap might be cheaper there.   On their way, they pass the sports store where Arthur needs to go to buy his shirt and cap.  Violet thinks that Arthur might have enough money already to buy what he needs, so they go into the store to see.  The lady behind the counter tells Arthur he needs $4.25 to buy his shirt and cap.  He dumps out all his money and he and Violet check it against the list Violet recorded with all the money he made from washing bikes and he has $4.43!  He buys his shirt and cap and 5 licorice twists.  Violet reminds him she still needs help to solve her number problem.  So Arthur demonstrates the problem with licorice twists but is upset when he realizes that after helping her solve the problem he is left with only 1 licorice twist. But Violet shares the twists evenly with him and they both eat 2 and a half licorice twists for a job well done.

Curriculum Connections
Arthur’s Funny Money is suitable for grades K-3 and can be used to introduce and/or reinforce math or economic concepts. Arthur’s Funny Money can be used to explain how people need to work to earn money to buy the things that they want and how you have to make choices  about what you buy because you can not have everything you want(Va SOL K.6,7,1.8).  Opportunity cost can also be introduced with examples from the book(Va SOL 3.9).  Arthur’s Funny Money could also be used to help explain the difference between the use of barter and the exchange of money for goods and services(Va SOL 2.8).  In the area of math, Arthur’s Funny Money can be used as an introduction or as a reinforcement for the measurement of money(Va SOL K.7, 1.10a&b, 2.11a&b).

Additional Resources

  • This website has several lesson plans for 2nd grade that introduce money.
  • This lesson plan can be used with 1st – 4th grade, and explains the different between goods and services.
  • This activity, which can be used at different levels, has students choosing items they can buy based on the amount of change they have.

Book: Arthur’s Funny Money
Author & Illustrator: Lillian Hoban
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 1984
Pages: 64 pages
Grade Range: K-3
ISBN-10: 0064440486