April 13, 2018

The Pay Me Game

Grade Level: 3 – 6

Lesson Overview: Students will use play money to understand the dollar cost of their energy habits.

Math: 3.1 (C), 3.15 (A, D), 4.3 (A), 4.14 (A, B), 5.3 (A), 5.14 (A), 6.11 (A)
Science: 3.3 (C), 4.3 (C), 5.3 (C), 6.3 (C)
Social Studies: 3.6 (A, B), 3.8 (B), 5.13 (A, B)

Time: 20–30 minutes

Materials: 2 envelopes, 1 marked “me” and 1 marked “utility” for each student, $100 Pay Me Game Money per student, copy of The Pay Me Game questions

Vocabulary: utility, save, spend

Background Information:

Students have a hard time understanding how much energy they are using if it is not tied to dollar amounts. They know how much a candy bar, a pair of shoes or a movie ticket costs. In this lesson they will use play energy money to learn some of the dollar amounts attached to a shower, the refrigerator or their pool. The dollar amounts for this game are based on amount of energy used multiplied by the state average for electricity costs.

Activity 1: The Pay Me Game

  1. Print and cut one Pay Me Game Money page for each student. If working with more than one class of students, consider laminating the money. Select questions from the Pay Me Game to ask students.
  2. Give each student one “me” envelope, one “utility” envelope and $100, made up of 10 $5s and five $10s (one page of pre-cut money).
  3. Tell students that they have just gotten paid $100, and whatever they and their family don’t spend on energy at home, they can use to buy things they want. Read each selected The Pay Me Game question to the group. Depending on their answer, the students will put the required amount of money in either their “me” envelope or in their “utility” envelope. If a student runs out of money before the end of the game he may borrow from his “me” envelope to pay the “utility bill.”
  4. At the end of the game, students discard any money that is still in their hand. Count the money in each envelope to show the students how much their energy habits are costing them.

Note: you may want to delete questions or change them depending on students in your area. If you know no one has a pool at home you may want to omit that question, however if you do ask it, the students will see how much they are saving by not having a pool.


How much the student learns from this depends on you. If you quickly discuss the “why’s” of the questions with the students they will have a better understanding of how to change their energy practices. Stress to the students that this is a game for them to see how much extra energy they really use. So it is best if they answer the questions honestly. If this was real money, and students could use any money that they could save, what would they do?


Utility companies produce good pamphlets with energy saving tips. You could get copies for your students to take home as a follow-up to this activity.

 The Pay Me Game

Pay Me Game Money