Do I Look Like I'm Made of Money?


This lesson printed from:

Posted August 8, 2005

Standard: 13

Grades: 3-5, 6-8

Author: Council for Economic Education

Posted: August 8, 2005

Updated: September 26, 2007


One of the most common replies given by parents when their children ask for money is “Do I look like I’m made of Money?” This lesson is designed to educate students about the need for money as a generally accepted medium of exchange. The students will also learn how money is earned. Finally, the students will identify useful endeavors they can be a part of.


Business, Functions of Money, Income, Money


  • moneyExplain the function of money as a medium of exchange for goods and services.
  • Recognize that money must be earned through production, and that one way of earning money is by expending personal or human resources (i.e. working).
  • Identify a suitable money-making endeavor they might pursue after school, on weekends or over the summer.


Have you ever heard someone say "Do I look like I'm made of Money?" Usually that question comes as a reply to someone asking for money. Money is a common medium of economic exchange. We use money to buy the goods and services we need. But how do we acquire the money we need to do that? This lesson will help the students understand that employment is an essential means of acquiring the money they will need throughout their lives.



Part 1: Why Do We Need Money?

Begin this lesson by asking the students what material item they wish they could have--more than any other. Compile the answers. Then ask the students how they could obtain that item, quickly and easily. [Paying for it with money would be quick and easy--compared with trying to barter, for example.]

Continue by asking the students whether they have ever done a service for their parents or neighbors? What was their payment? Now refocus the students' attentions back to the items they said they wanted more than any other. Ask them if they could go to the person who sells the item they want-- a new-car salesperson, for example--and acquire the item by doing the same jobs they have performed in the past for their parents or neighbors. Discuss their responses, emphasizing the point that performing household chores or other domestic tasks most associated with students their age would not help them to acquire goods from a department store, restaurant or other business.

To demonstrate why we need money, ask for two volunteers to come to the front of the class. Tell these students that you are a farmer who has all the food that there is in the world. They are hungry and want some of the food you possess. Assign the students to be specialists in specific crafts with a specific service to offer. Be creative with the occupations you assign them. For example, one can be a doctor and the other a lawyer. Then have the student actors approach you about gaining some of your food. Ask them what they can offer you for the food they want. Using the example, the doctor may tell you she can give you medical attention, and the lawyer may say he can give you legal advice or representation. Now, to demonstrate why money is needed you might tell the doctor that you have been having back pains and need her services, but you have no need for a lawyer. Or you could tell the lawyer that you have been having problems with your neighbor planting crops on your land, and you do need legal representation, but otherwise you feel fine and have no need for medical attention. Or you could say you have no problems that require either of their specialties and leave them both without food.

Explain to the students why money is needed. Money is something everyone accepts as a medium of exchange. So instead of the doctor or lawyer offering services to the farmer for food, they both can offer money. The farmer finds the money to be more valuable than the doctor and lawyer's services and lets them have some of his food in exchange for some of their money. Everyone is satisfied.

Part 2: How Do People Receive Income?

Have the students brainstorm a list of the many ways people receive money.

[They can receive it as a gift, win the lottery or do a particular type of work for pay. The most reliable and largest source of income is likely to be from a job.]

Tell the students that in this lesson they will learn about different ways in which people they know get their income. They will also begin a decision-making process that will help them decide how to acquire the money they will need to support themselves in themechanic future.

Instruct the students to ask an adult and a friend (their age) how much of their income is received from gifts, lottery, jobs, etc. Have the students print out this Pie Graph Handout and use it to construct a pie graph representing the information they received from the people they interviewed.

Note: Make sure you tell the students that asking about someone's income may be a touchy subject. Make sure the students know that they are not asking the subjects how much money they make. They are asking only what percentage of the earnings in question comes from each of the methods discussed.

Call on student volunteers to show examples of their graphs. Discuss the graphs. Help the students analyze them to see whether there is a difference between the distribution of income students receive in exchange for working and the amount adults earn in salary or wages. Ask: "How are you most likely to be able to gain enough income to support yourself as a teenager and an adult?"

Part 3: Choosing Your Enterprise

Explain to the students that enterprise is another word for a business. Having a business is one way to make money, develop skills or help others. Have the students visit the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) Career Information Web site to find job listings that will help them start thinking about a career. Allow time for the students to explore some of the job listings.

scientistOf course when we think of a business, we often think big--imagining the phone company or a fast food restaurant, for example. But businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Tell the students that if a few of them got together to make a summer job out of mowing people's lawns, that's a lawn mowing business! Sure, if they want to be a doctors or the President of the United States they'll have to wait until they're older, but there's plenty they can do right now.

What other kinds of jobs can students do? Lead a brainstorming activity for a list of possible jobs.

If the students are having a difficult time generating job ideas for the brainstorm activity, consider using this list of jobs to stimulate discussion.

Next, have the students print off the Job List Questions Worksheet. The worksheet asks them to evaluate the jobs from the list and rank them to the specifications asked. The students will analyze positive and negative aspects of the jobs discussed. Ask the students to say which jobs would suit them best.



  1. What are ways people earn or acquire income? [They can receive it as a gift, win the lottery or do a particular type of work for pay.] 
  2. Which one seems to be the most reliable? [The most reliable and largest source of income is likely to be from a job.]
  3. What can you do to earn money, and why is that important? [Answers will vary.]

[Answers should include reference to employment as the most common and reliable way to receive income. Students should understand that their own labor, or human resources, provide a means to acquire income.]


Review these points and invite discussion of them: Today, you saw that having a job that pays you money on a regular basis can be a really important way of acquiring the income you need to purchase the goods and services you want to have. There are other ways to receive an income, but being employed is one very important means. Ask for feedback.

If time permits, or in your next class session, use the follow-up lesson, Hey, Get a Job!, to help the students start to identify things they will need to do when it comes time to really find a job.


Have the students go back to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) Career Information Web site to find additional jobs they might like to do when they are older. Have the students write a short paper about the jobs they identify, using the information they have gained.