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11 Free Consumer Math Projects (Elementary – High School)

Prep your students for the “real world” by moving them from simple money tasks (worksheets) to complex ones (consumer math projects).

Money management is a complex task with lots of steps, not a simple task. Which is why one of the best ways to prep your students for the “real world” is by taking those consumer math worksheets and money word problems one step further, and introducing a consumer math project.

school teacher with middle school students at a table smiling, text overlay

Consumer math projects and Project-Based Learning allow students to deep-dive into financial topics in a way that brings the subject alive (more so than if they were just filling in worksheets).

Not only that, but when you introduce a whole project, students will typically need to use several money skills and skillsets to complete it – the aha’s and connections students can make are amazing.

We’ll start with elementary school consumer math projects, and move all the way up to high school.

Consumer Math Projects for Elementary School

I’ve got a child in elementary school, and I can tell you how interested kids at this age can become in money. He just loves that power of saving and being able to buy (mostly) what he wants!

That’s why I’ve included a couple of consumer math projects for elementary school students.

1. Classroom Economy + Auction

Duration: More than one class period

Use this free printable set to give students a job, pay them classroom bucks, and then run an auction where they can make a purchase with their money.

It also includes a bank register and checks to give students some banking practice.

Psst: you can also take a peek into some real-life classroom reward systems for more ideas to shape your classroom economy.

2. Lemonade Stand PBL Pack

Duration: More than one class period

Your students can work on:

  • Creating lemonade drinks
  • Pricing those drinks
  • Designing and naming a lemonade stand
  • Advertising for their lemonade stand
  • Etc.

…all while having fun planning a lemonade stand!

Here’s some other great lemonade stand ideas for kids, plus more lemonade stand worksheets.

3. The Snowman Construction Company Project

Duration: One class period or less

There’s a scenario given to your students about how a town that normally has snow is snowless…and wants to buy snowmen that your students will create.

Students are tasked with:

  • Sketching out their snowman plans
  • Reviewing the Snowman Construction Company Materials List and choosing materials based on needing to stay profitable
  • Creating the snowman (materials are cut-outs from free downloads)
  • Writing a sales pitch for their snowmen

Psst: need other elementary financial literacy activities? Here are free online financial literacy games for elementary students.

Consumer Math Projects for Middle School

Would you rather have your students fill in a worksheet of interest calculations on a car loan, or actually go through a car buying simulation from start to finish?

Do you think they’ll get more out of 7 money word problems on the cost of food at the grocery store, or making a budget and planning out a meal to make their family?

I know where my vote goes.

These consumer math projects are a way to bring real financial literacy and consumer math concepts to life.

Psst: you’ll also want to check out these personal finance project examples, and these 10 Would You Rather Money questions for middle school students.

1. Bill Pay Budget Project

Duration: 30 days/1 month

Who needs to learn how to pay bills? Everyone!

And yet, it’s often overlooked.

I put together a free bill pay budget project for a group or classroom that simulates how real bills are paid.

You’ll choose a banker, and each student will have a chosen profession.

Students are given a money sheet that has the dates they’re paid, the date each of their bills must be paid, as well as a monthly calendar where they’ll fill in everything in chronological order. 

A pocket chart is the perfect way to keep track of everything.

Psst: you’ll also want to check out these budget project for middle school students.

2. Build a Zoo Project

Duration: 4 weeks

Students will work on both creating a scaled zoo model, as well as gathering the construction costs for what it would take to create it.

The free handout includes:

  • A driving question
  • Three inquiry-based investigations
  • Five student-centered benchmark lessons

3. Name Brand vs. Generic Brand Savings Project

Duration: One class period

Introduce your students to a great way to save money at the grocery store: by buying generic brands of their favorite food brands.

You’ll get a worksheet example of this, and your students will do a taste test. They’ll score the taste, and then you can have them calculate how much they would save by buying a generic brand vs. the name brand of the items they’ve taste-tested.

4. Road Trip Planning Project

Duration: More than one class period

Students are tasked with planning a road trip that starts from Tulsa, OK, and has them visiting five cities before returning to Tulsa.

The free printables prompt students to:

  • Plan where to go
  • Calculate the distance of each leg of the trip
  • Choose sightseeing days and number of days of the vacation
  • Choose from rental car options and figure out the cost
  • Choose from hotel options
  • Choose from restaurant options
  • Coming up with the total cost of the trip

Consumer Math Projects for High School Students

High school students will soon be on their own, in charge of making daily, monthly, and big-time financial decisions that can have huge impacts on their futures.

These consumer math projects should help to address some of the scenarios they’ll likely be in in the coming years, such as trying to purchase a car, save money at the grocery store, and perhaps surviving on minimum wage.

1. Buying a Car Project (Lesson 3)

Duration: 45 minutes

Students are guided through the entire car-buying process – something they’ll either go through soon for the first time as teens, or as a young adult.

They’ll work through:

  • Deciding on a make and model and research costs
  • Determining how much money you will need to borrow, and calculate loan principal after down payment
  • Sifting through quotes from lenders
  • Calculating monthly payments and total amounts paid
  • Deciding which loan makes the most sense

2. Gen Z Money Project

Duration: More than one class period

Here’s a personal finance project anchored in “future thinking”, where students can more easily see that the path forward is typically not linear.

Students will:

  • Identify personal values
  • Think about what they want their life to look like at age 30
  • Complete a vision board
  • Calculate monthly costs based off of the vision board
  • Identify careers that can fulfill the money they need + their values
  • Present their future life findings (Google Slides Template is included)

personal values, finances, budgeting, and future college and career decision-making

Psst: also, check out my 4 budget projects for high school, and these Would You Rather money questions for high school students.

3. Living on Minimum Wage Project

Students look up what the minimum wage is in their area, then must figure out a way to live on it.

Students will:

  • Calculate their monthly net income after taxes
  • Find an apartment within their budget
  • Grocery shop and meal plan (with healthy food options that meet federal guidelines)

You’re not always going to have time to guide your students through a project. But when you do? I hope you pick from one of these consumer math projects above. Your students are about to learn some critical money life skills – the kind they’ll take into young adulthood, and beyond.

4. Grocery Store Ninja Project

Duration: More than one class period

Grocery and food spending account for about 10% of overall household income. Knowing how to save money in this category is a really important money life skill.

Help your students learn a bit about how to do that with this project.

Here’s how this project goes:

Step #1: Meal Planning

Have your students plan a meal for their family. They’ll need to research recipes, and meet the USDA guidelines for a healthy dinner.

Classroom work also includes: researching and finding recipes, making sure the meal meets USDA guidelines, and writing a shopping list of ingredients based on the number in their family.

Step #2: Price the Meal

Their homework can then be to price the ingredients and come up with a total for what it will cost to make this meal. They can also calculate how much this meal costs per serving/per person.

Hint: if you’d prefer this to be all down in the classroom, then students can research this info online as well.

Step #3: Lesson on Saving Money at the Grocery Store

With this information in hand, you’ll then teach a lesson around how to save money at the grocery store.

Grocery Savings Ninja strategies can include:

  • Using a coupon (explain manufacturer vs. store coupons, and digital vs. paper ones)
  • Buying an ingredient when it’s on sale vs. just because
  • Substituting a more expensive ingredient for a less expensive ingredient (for example, buying imitation vanilla instead of real vanilla extract)
  • Shopping at a different/cheaper store
  • Buying ingredients from bulk bins instead of prepackaged (for example, buy just enough walnuts that you need from a bulk bin, not a whole package)
  • Looking at unit prices and get the cheapest one
  • Buying frozen fruits/veggies instead of more expensive fresh ones

Step #4: Present the Results

Have everyone present on how much they were able to save off their original total bill, and how they were able to do it.

Hint: you can also check out my article on how to save money on groceries without coupons for more info.

Managing money effectively means being able to use lots of simple math skills – like counting, subtracting, comparing, etc. – in a complex way to work through life’s daily, weekly, monthly, and annual money tasks. These consumer math projects are a great way to get your students thinking about managing money in a holistic way, and less in a way where simple calculations are the answer to everything.

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Her money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money, CA.gov, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Amanda is the founder and CEO of Frugal Confessions, LLC. Read more here or on LinkedIn.