Multistep with money

Money is a common multistep problem that tends to pop up regularly on NAPLAN. It is also a very easy way to introduce algebra or fractions in a meaningful way. Here’s a problem that I enjoy using with anyone from years 3-9. It is really easy to vary to create complexity. Check out the variations below.

I’m going shopping. I buy a cupcake for $3, a shirt for $10 and then at the end of the day I have $10 left. What did I start with?


  • What if I had bought cakes for myself and my three friends for $3 each? What did I start with now? What if the fourth one was free?
  • What if I had also bought a skirt for $20?
  • What if I bought a second skirt but it was 50% off?
  • What if during the day my sister had paid me back $10 that she owed me? I still ended the day with $10.
  • What if I had only started the day with $5? I used a credit card for the rest. What was my credit card balance at the end of the day?
  • Now try writing all of that into an equation.
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