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If there’s anything we Americans love, it’s a good bargain. Coupons, discounts, sales extravaganzas, you name it. But are all deals created equal? And why don’t retailers just lower their prices instead of having sales every single day of the week?

In this lesson, students use unit rates and percents to explore the math and psychology behind retail discounts. They’ll also learn about JCPenney’s recent troubles, and discuss why people might like getting a great deal more than they like getting a great price.

Students will

  • Evaluate various discount offers and determine which results in the best value for a consumer
  • Discuss the effect that an offer’s wording has consumer perception
  • Create different discounts that offer equivalent value
  • Explain why stores who constantly offer sales and discounts can still make money
  • Calculate the pre-sale price of various discounted items
  • Compare a the outcomes of different pricing and advertising strategies for consumers
  • Discuss the pros and cons of a retailer offering lower everyday prices versus discounts on higher prices

Before you begin

Students should be able to solve basic problems involving percents, including percent increase and decrease.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


Broderick the Coupon Kid, J. C. Penney, Ron Johnson