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Math Merchants Review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright

Louise Vandling and Judy Bippert
Highsmith Inc.
W5527 State Road 106
PO Box 900
Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0900

Math Merchants ($64.95) is a delightfully original math unit that is designed to help students in grades 3 through 6 develop number skills and mathematical reasoning. The students become buyers and sellers in a make-believe city and have to solve real-life situations with money, taxes, making change, etc. The students create their own stores and services, including catalogs, props, records, or whatever will be needed for their company. They also interact with the other companies and respond to Situation Cards with real-life scenarios, such as buying a birthday present at the department store, replacing a TV set that was broken, or getting a check-up at the doctor's office. The beauty of the unit is that it is both comprehensive and simple to use!

The package includes a teacher's guide, student guides for buyers and sellers, two colorful sample catalog posters, one check-writing poster, and one set of reproducible money masters. The student guides give general information for what the student should do each day as a buyer or a seller. The teacher's guide is full of information, guidance, and lesson plans. It includes detailed lessons for such topics as calculating tax, creating catalogs, handling money, balancing a checkbook, making change, etc. It also includes all of the forms needed for the unit, such as job postings for the various stores and services, Situation Cards, sample receipts, and various assessment options to help you see how much your students have learned. The material is very well organized, thorough, interesting, and educational.

While Math Merchants seems to have been designed for a classroom setting, I think it could easily be adapted to a homeschool setting with any number of children and for higher and lower grades. Children can be given situations to practice a particular skill they need to work on, such as calculating tax to practice working with multiplication with decimals. The program would also work well with a homeschool co-op or with a couple of families working together. It was designed as a short lesson every day for several weeks, but it could be adapted to a shorter or longer period of time as needed. The challenge activities in the back of the teacher's manual could be used separately as additional practice or incorporated into the daily lesson plan. I was very impressed with the breadth of information covered, the comprehensiveness of the program, and the creativity of the exercises. One nice addition for future versions might be a disc with PDF files of all of the masters for the various exercises and assessments, which would make preparation even easier. Learning is greatly enhanced when students can see how the material relates to real-life experiences and can practice their new skills in a practical way. Math Merchants proves that learning math doesn't have to be boring; your kids will have so much fun, they might just forget they are practicing math!

Product review by Dr. Anne Margaret Wright, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2007