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3rd Grade Economics: Communities Past, Present, Near & Far Activity - Tweaked

data grades 3-5 math social studies strategies tweaked lesson plans

Tweaked Lesson Plans 

This article is part of the “LP Tweaks” blog series showcasing how small adjustments to the questions, organization, and/or data moves within your existing curriculum can help align the learning to different data skills for your learners. This original lesson is strong, and the intention is not to communicate otherwise but rather to share how you could adjust things for a different desired outcome.

Written by: Naomi W


Source: Bar chart clipart:


So imagine that you have a great data-based lesson “Economics: Ohio Grade 3 Social Studies” from Nuts About Teaching on TeachersPayTeachers on economics and communities  (*note this activity requires payment for the curriculum). You enjoy using this activity to help your learners work on concepts related to:

  • Social Studies standards 3.10: Each community develops an economic system that addresses three questions: what will be produced, how will it be produced, and who will get what is produced? (especially 3.10a Communities around the world produce goods and provide services.)

  • Math standards 3.MD: Geometric measurement: understand concepts of area and relate to multiplication and to addition (especially 6. Measuring areas by counting unit squares). 

You are torn, you like the Economics: Ohio Grade 3 Social Studies lesson and have used it previously, but you are worried the questions aren’t directly getting at the data skills your learners need to practice at this point in the year, but the content is. What do you do?

Let’s check out some easy optional tweaks to make the lesson more what you are looking for now.

Here is an example of how we can add a few questions to the lesson to more directly help your current students practice data skills we know they are weaker on (or we are more interested in targeting this specific data interaction) at this point in the year.


Black text is the original lesson and the purple text is suggested additional questions to add. A full copy of the revised lesson can be viewed here


The questions are designed to help students to describe and analyze patterns in grade 3 appropriate ways. They do not add a large amount to the workload to the students, but they do provide more targeted practice of thinking about the data from the perspective of seeing patterns. These questions are helping the students look more deeply at the graph they are making (as a note, line graphs are more developmentally appropriate for students once they learn the coordinate plane in 5/6th grade). By having students actively circle the highest bar and putting a box around the lowest bar, they are actively annotating the graph to see features of the dataset. 

Also, by asking students to think about the change day-to-day students are prompted to compare the height of each bar. This is important, but also the overall trend of Perry’s money over the week is important. So by asking students to compare the bar height of Sunday to Saturday you are actively drawing their eye to those two bars to make a comparison. These questions are helping students start to think more deeply about the data and not just to answer look up number questions from the graph just to get the answer for their worksheet. Instead we are planting seeds for them to pay attention to multiple aspects of the data in a graph.

Even though the students have looked at patterns from an economic sense, these questions are designed specifically to look at the patterns from a data sense and how the patterns change with the “choices” made in economics.

Additionally, by using this lesson and these adjusted questions we are able to more deeply connect math-social studies learning all in one learning experience for our students. This is a wonderful cross discipline lesson due to the fact that while working on their math skills, students are learning about economics in their community.

Therefore, with the addition of 3 new questions, you can continue to use the tried-and-true lesson you found years ago while also better aligning it to your current learners' needs and/or your desired focus areas for your learners to practice data skills. 

To me that feels like a win-win…using a lesson that you like with a more strategic data focus to help learners build their skills :)

Will this exact tweak work for everyone or every lesson? Nope…never does ;) But it is just one example of something we could do with one part of a lesson sequence for a particular data skill focus area.

The point is that with a better sense of what we are working towards with data skills (see Building Blocks for Data Literacy to explore the range of data skills K-12 our learners should be working to master) we can be empowered to make our existing curriculum work better for us and our learners…rather than needing to find or write all new curriculum.

Give it a try! What in your next lesson with data can you slightly adjust to make it better hit the skills you want your students to practice? Let us know how it goes.