Book Review and Lesson: Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday

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Follow me as I show you how I used the book, Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, by Judith Viorst to implement a lesson about counting money. Kids can learn how to count change right along with the main character, Alexander!

Does the name Judith Viorst ring a bell?  Do you remember Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the well-worn, well-loved children's classic which first came out in 1972?  I don't know many kids or adults who haven't heard that title, read through those beloved pages countless times, or can't relate to Alexander's struggle to get along with his siblings!  I was always a big fan of Alexander, but somehow did not know that Alexander's struggle also included saving money! Yep--there are other books written about Alexander!  

In the book, Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, We get front seats to Alexander's failure to save money.  Even though he sets his sights on a set of walkie talkies, all sorts of other money-draining objects and activities make saving virtually impossible!  This leaves Alexander mopey, grumbly and envious at his older brothers' abilities to save up. Readers relate to Alexander's disappointment, the temptation to buy something JUST to buy something, and his discord with his siblings.  All is not lost, however.  Reader's will empathize with Alexander, and just might learn a valuable lesson--maybe without going through the same angst Alexander did!  

Readers will also recognize the same classic illustrations that Ray Cruz detailed in all of the Alexander book series.  

I really enjoyed this book because it lends itself to some pretty awesome money-counting practice.  Follow me as I show you how we used this book to count change, helped Alexander spend his money on a melted candle, a one-eyed bear, and a dopey deck of cards, and show how fast a dollar can be spent.   My daughter also got a great visual of how much change equals a paper $1 bill.  This is an excellent lesson for individuals, small groups, and entire classrooms of students.  

Let's begin!

First, we read through the entire book.  I then focused on the first two pages, allowing my girls to count out the amount of change Alexander's two brother's had in their savings.  

We then put all the money back into the middle of the table.  That was just a quick practice session for the lesson that follows.  It allowed my girls a chance to familiarize themselves again with the value of each coin.  It also sparked interest in what was to come next.  They were so excited!

I counted out for each of my girls the following combination of change:

15 pennies
5 dimes
7 nickels

We placed the pile of change in the middle of the table.  Then, we took a piece of string about 12" long and formed a circle with the string, right around the pile of change. The circle of string represents Alexander's pocket.  The pile of coins within the circle of string represents the money in Alexander's pocket, or the money that has NOT been spent, yet.  Right now, the circle is filled.  No money has been spent. 

We read the book again, page by page.  At different spots in the book, Alexander spends his money on things he doesn't really need, or when he has to surrender coins as a punishment for acting badly towards his brothers.  He also loses money--once during a magic trick, once by losing coins in the toilet, and another time within the cracks in the floor.  Each time he loses some of his money, he says, "Good-bye fifteen cents", or "Good-bye twelve cents", etc.  At each of these pivotal moments, we stopped reading and my daughters would remove that amount of change from the pile and place it in the circle of string.  

This provided an amazing side-by-side comparison of the dwindling effects of spending a little bit "here and there."  And of course, there is the shocking realization that Alexander spent all. of. his. money.  

Money is an abstract concept that is often difficult for children to completely grasp.  This book is a wonderful tool;  one that is completely relatable for children everywhere, providing valuable hands-on money-counting practice.  

When we finished, my daughter grabbed a paper $1 bill and laid it next to the circle of change.  She understood that the change and the bill represented the same amount of money.

Along the way through this fabulous book, another lesson was learned.  Fifteen cents doesn't always look the same.  Because there are a variety of coins to choose from, kids will quickly learn that there is more than one, two, or three ways to count up to fifteen cents.  Here my daughter shows us two different ways to count up to the same amount.  As an extension for your classroom, ask your child or students to show you all the different ways to count change up to $.15.  They will be delighted at all the different ways to do that! 

Try this lesson today and let me know if you have any other ideas to further the Math lesson!  Also, click here to read my article, "Pizza Paradise", which details another great lesson involving money.  

  I'd also venture to say this book would be a creative, affordable, and delightful gift.  Just don't forget to include a dollar tied underneath the ribbon.  :o)