Money Doesn't Grow on Trees


This lesson printed from:

Posted August 13, 2003

Standards: 11, 14

Grades: 3-5

Author: Patricia Bonner

Posted: August 13, 2003

Updated: September 17, 2007


Money doesn’t grow on trees. This lesson introduces students to four ways people get money—they find it, win it, receive it as a gift or earn it. Finding, winning and receiving money often depend on chance and luck. Most people get money by earning it. Students explore allowances and doing work for pay as sources of extra money to buy something they want. They also differentiate between earned and unearned income. This lesson can be used alone or in combination with the lesson 'I Can Be an Entrepreneur.' When used alone, students create a simple plan for earning the money they want to achieve a specific objective. 'I Can Be an Entrepreneur' has students spending additional time exploring business opportunities for earning money and creating a more detailed earning plan that considers profit and loss as well as how they might advertise what they are selling.




  • Identify methods for getting money.
  • Explain what to do when they find money and other things that belong to someone else.
  • Distinguish between earned and unearned income.
  • Create a plan for earning extra money.
  • Conduct a survey to learn more about typical allowances provided to people their age.


Chances are, you know that money doesn't grow on trees. There are only a few ways you can get money. You can find it, win it, receive it as a gift, and earn it.

After the students have read the introduction to the lesson, discuss the following:handful of cash

  • How many people do you know who have won money in a contest or by gambling? Do you know anyone who has lost money by gambling? [Point out that the number of people who have won money is relatively small when they consider compared to all the people the students know in their school and community, or all the people in the country.]
  • Why do you think newspapers and television reporters make a big deal when someone wins a lot of money in a lottery or contest? [Because the chance of someone winning is so small.]
  • If you found a wallet or money, how could you find the owner? [Potential answers include: looking for identification in the wallet, giving the item found to a shopkeeper or police officer, putting an ad in the newspaper, making posters, or calling a local television station to do a news story.]
  • When is it okay to keep money found? [Only when it is not possible to find the owner and a reasonable effort is made to find the owner.]
  • On what special occasions do people get money as a gift? [Potential answers include a birthday, graduation, wedding, visit from grandparent]
  • How do most people get their money? [By earning it]



[NOTE: Prepare your students for the following survey by having a brief discussion of allowance. Discuss with your students the concept of allowance pointing out there are several different views on the concept of allowance. This lesson focuses on the concept of an earned allowance where students receive financial compensation for work done. There is an article written by the Kids Money Web site that addresses the concept of allowance.]

Activity 1:
Have the students complete the Allowance Survey below and print their responses.

 Allowance Survey:

  1. moneyDo you receive a regular allowance?
  2. What must you do to get your allowance? (Choose One: Household chores, Nothing, I don't get an allowance)
  3. If you do work to get your allowance, list what you must do.
  4. How much allowance do you get each week? Put "None" if you don't get an allowance.
  5. How do you spend your allowance?
  6. Are you expected to buy school lunch or other things with your allowance money?

Divide the class into small groups and have the students compile findings from the class survey. Encourage them to use mathematical tools such as bar graphs and averages as appropriate ways to show their findings. Below are several suggested questions:

  1. What proportion of students receive an allowance?
  2. What are the different amounts of the allowances?
  3. What expectations are tied to their allowances in terms of work and uses?


  • How are class allowances similar to or different from those reported in the Kids' Money survey?
  • What factors might explain the differences?
    • For example, high prices caused by inflation may result in higher allowances than those paid in 1999.
    • High unemployment in a community or low family incomes may result in lower allowances .
    • There may also be differences resulting from the work expected for an allowance and what the students must do with their allowances.
    • Students who must pay for lunch out of their allowances will probably have higher allowances than those who do not.

    piggy bank[NOTE: Some students may point out that they do jobs at home but don’t get paid. Explain that some families do not pay for work done within for the family. In these families, everyone is expected to help as a their contribution to the family. For example, making one’s bed may be expected with no pay.]

Activity 2

After students read the online story "Heather Learns About Earning " discuss as a class the following:

  • How did Heather get the money to pay for having a birthday party? [She received a gift from her grandmother and she earned some money by selling a cake she had made]
  • What else might Heather have done to get the money she wanted for the party?
  • Have you ever earned money by working for someone else?
  • If yes, what did you do?
  • How much did you get paid?
  • Would you do it again? Why or why not?


Assessment is based on the student activities and:

  1. Completion of the sentences on the Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees worksheet. Check student answers using answer guide.
  2. Preparation of a plan for earning extra money to buy something students want to buy in the future. Elements of the plan should include the following:
    • The item they want to purchase
    • The cost of the item
    • Jobs they can do to earn the money needed
    • An realistic estimate of how much they can earn each time they do a job, plus an estimate of how long it will take to earn all the money needed.
    • A statement of how they will avoid the temptation to spend the money earned on something else before they reach their goal.

They should think about each of these things and provide a written description of their plan.


lotteryWouldn’t it be nice if you won a million dollars on a television game show? Or maybe someone would give you a lot of money as a gift? Of all the people you know, how many people have been so lucky? Most people get their money by working for it. If you need some extra money, earning it is usually the best route to choose.


  1. Have the students conduct a survey of allowances paid to students in your school. How much changeallowance do students receive at different ages? Is the money a gift or payment for work? If it is for work, what kinds of work? Graph the results. Compare the results with those reported in the Kids' Money Survey .
  2. Have the students write letters aimed at persuading their parents to give them an allowance or to increase their allowance. The letters should tell:

    a. The reason for the request (for example, an explanation of what the student plans to do with the money).
    b. The amount of money desired.
    c. What the student will do to earn the money.