Alexander Who Used to Be Rich

Suggested Target Age: Grades 1-4 NOTE: The suggested closing activity, writing a letter to Alexander, may be too difficult for 1st and 2nd graders. For them, have them write down a suggestion or two of how Alexander could save–or for kids who can’t write at all, have them “dictate” a letter for the instructor(s) to write to Alexander


Topics Covered: opportunity costs, spending, saving, setting savings goals

State Content Standards Key
California: History/SS 2.4, 3.5 (subpoint 3); English/Language Arts grade 1- 1.1, 1.3, 2.2; Math grade 1- 2.5, 2.6; grade 2- 5.2; grade 3- 2.1, 3.3
Florida:LA.B.1.2, LA.C.1.2; MA.A.3.2; SS.D.1.2 (subpoints 1 and 2)
Indiana: Social Studies (Economics) 1.4.5, 2.4.5, 4.4.10; English 1.3.5, 2.3.7, 1.5.5, 2.5.3, 3.5.3; Math 2.5.12, 3.5.11, 4.5.10
Virginia: Economics: k.7b, 1.8, 1.9, 3.9; Math 2.7, 2.8, 2.9, 3.4, 3.8, 3.12, 3.13, 4.9, 5.1, 5.4, 5.6; CE.9

Time Required: approximately 35 minutes

What Will the Students Learn:
– That there is an opportunity cost to every economic decision and that these costs
come as a result of limited resources.
– How to identify “opportunity costs” in their own lives.
– How to understand the consequences of personal spending and savings decisions.

Materials Needed:

  • The book, Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst (you can check it out of your local public library or buy it cheap here: If you can get 3 copies, that would be ideal
  • Play money(mostly coins)
  • Math Activity Sheet (see Appendix 1 below)
  • Inexpensive stationary sheets (one per student)
  • Pens or pencils to write with
  • A set of walkie-talkies (or a picture of walkie-talkies)

NOTE: This lesson does NOT require computers or Internet access

Lesson Plan:

Set-Up: Gather students together in a classroom – you might try to make it “cozy” by having kids lounge on the floor while you read them the story.

Introductory Activity: If you have a set of walkie-talkies (or a picture), show them to the students and ask if they can identify. If you don’t have a set of walkie-talkies, ask the kids if they know what a walkie-talkie is. Then ask if anyone owns one or has ever played with one. Ask them what walkie-talkies are for (how one uses them). After a short discussion of walkie-talkies, tell the students that you will be reading them a story today about a boy named Alexander who really wanted a walkie-talkie. Tell them that as they listen to the story, they should make a mental note of the different decisions that Alexander makes, because his decisions affect whether or not he will get a walkie-talkie. (3-5 minutes)

1. Read aloud the story, Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. Be sure to show them many of the pictures and to read with a lot of expression. (10 minutes)

2. Hold a brief group discussion after the story, focused on these questions: (5 minutes)

  • Did Alexander get a walkie-talkie? (no)
  • Why not? (because he failed to save his money)
  • What did Alexander do with the dollar that his grandparents gave him? (he said he was going to save it but he ended up spending it in all kinds of ways)
  • What are some of the things Alexander spent his money on? (gum, renting Eddie’s snake, buying things at Cathy’s garage sale)
  • How else did Alexander lose some of his money? (betting Nicky he could hold his breath until 300; having his mom guess which hand he was holding a marble in; getting “fined” by his dad as a punishment for saying mean things to his brothers)

3. Pass out the Math Activity Sheet (see Appendix 1). Divide students into three groups. If you were able to get three copies of the book from your library, then provide each group with a copy. Otherwise:

Provide Group 1 with photocopies of pages 1-12 of the Alexander book
Provide Group 2 with photocopies of pages13-18 of the Alexander book
Provide Group 3 photocopies of pages 19-end of the Alexander book

Provide each group of students with play money – you will need mostly coins. Have the students solve the math problems that appear throughout the book, following the Math Activity Sheet. (5-10 minutes)

4. Pass out stationary sheets. Have the students write a friendly letter to Alexander giving him advice on what he can do the next time he has money, so that he doesn’t again spend it unwisely. The letter should include tips on how to save, at least some of his money, for something he really cares about. (10 minutes)

Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday
Math Activity Sheet

Group 1 Questions

  • How much money does Anthony start out with?
  • How much money does Nicholas start out with?
  • How much money does Alexander start out with?
  • How much does Alexander have after his grandparents give him a dollar?
  • How much does each piece of gum cost?
  • How much does Alexander have after he buys the gum?

Group 2 Questions

  • How much money does Alexander have after he loses a bet to his mother?
  • After he rents Eddie’s snake?
  • After his father fines him for saying naughty words?
  • After flushing pennies down the toilet and dropping a nickel through a crack?
  • After paying for Anthony’s chocolate bar?

Group 3 Questions

  • How much money does Alexander have after pennies disappear in Nick’s trick?
  • After paying his father for kicking his brother?
  • After buying things at a garage sale?