Why Teach Mathematics and Economics Together?
Teaching mathematics in today’s elementary
classroom can be both exciting and challenging
for an elementary teacher. It can be exciting
because we are experiencing a wonderful evolution
in mathematics education that recognizes
the importance of teaching mathematics
in a hands-on, dynamic and applied way. This
approach makes learning mathematics fun for
teacher and student alike.
Teaching mathematics for an elementary
teacher can also be a challenge because the
mathematics that should be taught today
includes much more than the simple arithmetic
that we adults may have experienced in our
In the elementary classroom of today, mathematics
is a dynamic discipline basic to our
information society and includes essential
processes such as problem solving, reasoning,
communication, connections and representation.
(Principles and Standards for School
Mathematics, Reston, Va.: National Council of
Teachers of Mathematics, 2000). Mathematics
and Economics: Connections for Life Grades 3-
5 book helps an elementary teacher strive for
thoughtful and creative mathematics instruction
by providing 12 model lessons for grades
3 through 5 that give students a great context — economics — for learning mathematics.
Recent research on mathematics education
continues to confirm that teaching mathematics
in the context of an application is highly
effective and that significant, worthwhile and
grade-level appropriate content can have considerable
influence on student learning. (Iris
R. Weiss and Joan D. Pasley, "What is High-
Quality Instruction?" Educational Leadership,
February 2004, pp. 24-28). Primary factors
associated with effective lessons were student
engagement and interaction with the content.
As it does in many sciences, the discipline of
mathematics quite naturally represents a "language"
for economics. Economics depends on
mathematics to represent relationships, solve
problems, and communicate ideas effectively.
This real-world context provides a great opportunity
for elementary teachers to teach their
students current mathematics, while simultaneously
offering their students a chance to
learn some of the fundamental concepts of economics.
Thus, the lessons in this book will help
teachers illustrate to their students the real
power of mathematics in our world.
Economics teaches students how to be wise
producers and consumers, lessons they will use
throughout their lives. Although the focus of
these lessons is teaching mathematics within
the context of economics, the teaching of economics
is itself essential. Forty-eight states
now have curriculum standards at the elementary
level requiring that students be taught
economics. Teachers often weave economics
concepts into the material of other subjects as
they seek to fulfill the responsibility to address
their district’s elementary curriculum. Not
only do the lessons in this book teach mathematics
in a compelling way, they are also
exciting and relevant approaches to teaching
economics concepts that students will use for a
The lessons have been designed by master
teachers, reviewed by content experts, piloted
in elementary classrooms and published with
a careful attention to the potential excitement
and utility of blending instruction for these
two disciplines. All lessons include hands-on
activities, encourage class discussions and provide
many effective questions teachers can use
to review and deepen student understanding.
All lessons, even the fanciful, are grounded
in familiar activities relevant to the everyday
lives of students.
Each lesson includes a Web address for all of
the activities and visuals ready to print, further
connections to other disciplines, additional
suggestions for mathematics and economics
activities for students, and links to interesting
information and resources. Most of all, students
will be excited by these creative activities
and that will excite teachers as well.
Professor of Mathematics Education
University of Nebraska-Omaha
Professor of Economics
University of Nebraska-Omaha