Cool Maths – 10 Ways to Use Shopping Catalogues



Shopping catalogues are a cool maths resource when teaching as they form the basis of some quick math thinking. Kids love them and they are so handy. Firstly they are free, secondly they are easy to get and thirdly they can be the basis of some cool maths activities. I keep at least 50 or so catalogues in my bag of tricks.

It is easier for the activity if the students all have the same catalogue from which to work. If catalogues are not at the entrance/exit of the shop, I ask at the service counter of the grocery shop if I can grab 30 or so. The shop assistant looks at me like I must have escaped from a mental institution, but she normally hands them over.

Australian Curriculum Links:

Year 4 – Solve problems involving purchases and the calculation of change to the nearest five cents with and without digital technologies (ACMNA080)

Year 6 – Select and apply efficient mental and written strategies and appropriate digital technologies to solve problems involving all four operations with whole numbers (ACMNA123)

Year 7 – Investigate and calculate ‘best buys’, with and without digital technologies (ACMNA174)

Year 7 -Round decimals to a specified number of decimalplaces (ACMNA156)

Lesson Outline:

Students will need to cut and glue. It may be a cool maths activity but it involves some mess and some noise.  At my teaching gigs, I write 5 or so on the board or whiteboard and let the kids go. I usually stop the activity when most of the kids and finished, and write another 5. It kids the class focused together.

  1. Purchase 5 items and get the LEAST change from $50.
  2. Purchase 10 items and get your total between $70 and $75. (You can alter the value to suit the catalogue of the kids)
  3. Make two purchases – one of 10 items and one of 5 items. The totals must be within $5 of each other.
  4. Purchase 5 items for your teacher. (Let them know what you like)
  5. Purchase 5 non-food and 5 food items which are within $1 of each other.
  6. Purchase 6 items which will give you less than $10 change from $100.
  7. Find five items less than $20 each and put them in ascending order/descending order.
  8. Purchase a pair of items that will make $2, and another pair which will make $3 and go up to $10 (or $20)
  9. Purchase 3 items at a time – but the total must be $2, then $3, then $4 and so on.
  10. Purchase any 5 items. Purchase another 5 items so the total is one half of your first purchase.


Repetition of any of these activities under test conditions would be appropriate.


You can get another 20 quick activities for using shopping catalogues at

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