Given a limited number of tokens, you will exchange those tokens for goods in preparation for pioneering in a new land. You will be asked to identify what you have left behind and give reasons for your choices. You will be asked to identify the costs and benefits and the opportunity costs of your choices.


  1.  Have you ever had to make a choice? Describe a choice you have made. Why did you have to make the choice? What did you have to give up? Were you happy with the choice you made?
  2. You are going to pretend to be a pioneer. You will have to make some choices as you prepare to be the first settlers on Interactive Island. Visit The Oregon Trail to learn about pioneers who settled the American West. Read the section titled Jumping Off to learn about the supplies pioneers took with them. How much food would a family of four need on the Oregon Trail? What would the animals eat along the way? What did the settlers do when they realized they had over packed? How would you decide what things to bring with you if you were a settler?
  3. Visit the Denver Library's History of the American West, 1860 - 1920 and select any of the photos of pioneers to get an idea of what pioneering is about. What things did pioneers use to make their houses? Did they bring these things with them on their trip? Where did they get the materials they used? How would modern pioneers be different from those shown in the photos?
  4. What wants would you have as pioneers on Interactive Island? Brainstorm. What things must people have to survive? Food, shelter, clothing, water. Name these wants. Think about things you need to have each day.
  5. Put a check mark in pencil next to each item you would like to bring with you as you go to settle Interactive Island.
  6. You only have 15 tokens to spend on items to take with you to Interactive Island. Decide how you will spend your tokens. On the Choices manipulative, put the correct number of tokens on each item you choose until you are out of tokens. Think of items you would need to survive and be happy on the island. You may move the tokens, as many times as you wish until you are satisfied with your choices. Once you are satisfied, you should trace the tokens in pencil onto the manipulative.
  7. Get a copy of the Choices Math handout:
    1. Count the tokens and write that number, 15, on the first line.
    2. Place the required number of tokens on one item. Write the number of tokens on the second line and the name of the item on the third line.
    3. Count the remaining tokens and write that number on the fourth line.
    4. Begin again by counting the remaining tokens. This number should match line four on the previous problem.
  8. Fill in your handout using the choices you made.
  9. Which items that you originally checked did you have to leave behind? Why did you choose the items you finally selected? Which item was hardest to leave behind? What did you choose instead?


  1. Share one choice with the class. Discuss the points you talked about in your small groups. What was the opportunity cost of your choice? What did this choice cost you? For example, if you gave up a tent to bring a dog, the cost was a place to sleep. What was the benefit of your choice?
  2. As a group, discuss some of the costs and benefits of the items that were available. What are the benefits of tools? Of a horse? What are the costs? Which required more tokens, food or a fishing pole? Which is a better choice?


  1. Choose between four toys. Write, draw a picture, or verbally explain your choice. Indicate the opportunity cost of that choice.
  2. Choose either one treat, a no homework day, or 10 extra minutes on the playground. Explain the cost of your choice and the benefits.


  1. Keep a list of choices your parents make during a visit to the grocery store. Interview parents to find out why they made those choices.
  2. Draw or write about a difficult choice you have had to make. Indicate the opportunity cost of that choice. Create a bulletin board, display, or book with the your work.