Thursday, May 01, 2008

Opportunity Cost with Clementine

I am always looking for good ways to help students understand the concept of opportunity cost. One activity I like is to give students a coloring page with something like an elephant on one side and a panda on the other. After students have colored both sides, I inform them that they must choose their favorite to cut out and post on the board. This is where the problems begin. In order to choose one, the other will be destroyed. Very quickly, students learn that opportunity cost is the alternative given up when making a choice.

Tops and Bottoms, a Caldecott honor book written and illustrated by Janet Stevens, is a terrific book for introducing this concept. Until now, this was one of only a few books I relied on for this topic. Thanks to Sara Pennypacker, I can now add The Talented Clementine to the list. Here is an excerpt (pp. 67-68).
My parents always try to bribe each other into taking me shopping, which I do not think is funny. But--okay, fine--I take a really, really long time in stores. My parents think I have a hard time choosing things, but that's not it. I can choose things just fine. The problem is, whenever you have to choose something, that means you have to not-choose about a hundred other things. Which is not so easy.

Like in the candy store. If you choose peanut butter cups you have to not-choose red licorice and M&M's and Starbursts and bubble gum. And Tootsie Rolls and Gummi Worms and Pixy Stix.

And no matter what you pick, as soon as you take the first bite, you suddenly know you wanted one of the other ones.
Out of the mouths of babes. This will be a great example for my next classroom visit.


  1. You know, I read Clementine, and was so enjoying the humor, I missed the opportunity cost lesson -- thanks so much for sharing your realization!
    Also, thanks for the Tops and Bottoms title.

  2. How true is THAT! Woah!

  3. Oh great! Thanks for the hint one day too late! Our state testing was today and I bet a million opportunity cost was on there. I'll remember this for next year.