Grade K-2, 3-5

Decision Making with “Sam and the Lucky Money”

Time: 30 mins,
Updated: March 26 2024,
Author: Ruth Cookson


Students will be able to:

  • Use a decision grid to analyze a decision made by a character in a story.
  • Identify the opportunity cost of the character’s decision.


Sam can’t wait to go shopping in Chinatown with his mom. He has his traditional gift of “lucky money” to spend – any way he chooses! But when Sam realizes he doesn’t have enough money to purchase the things he wants, his excitement turns to disappointment. His mother reminds him that he should appreciate his gift, although Sam is not convinced – until he has a surprise encounter with a poor stranger.

Using Sam’s story,  students discuss unlimited wants and scarcity and use a decision grid to analyze Sam’s decision.


Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn. Lee & Low Books, $8.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-880000-53-3

Video Reading of Sam and the Lucky Money   First two minutes explain the traditions of New Year in Asian communities. Book starts at about 2:00 mins.


  1. Read or view the story “Sam and the Lucky Money”.
  2. Discuss the economic terms in the story using the following questions.
  • How did Sam get the four dollars that he had to spend?
    He got it as a traditional gift from his grandparents for the Chinese  New Year.
  • How do grown up people normally get the money they spend?
    They work at their jobs to earn their income/money.
  • What were some of the goods in the stores that Sam considered buying with this  money?
    Pastries such as sweet egg tarts, coconut pastries; toys such as cars, planes, robots, stuffed animals, and basketballs.
  • What was the scarcity problem in the story that made Sam angry and disappointed?
    He didn’t have enough income/money to get the toys that he wanted!
  • What scarcity problem did the stranger face? 
    He had very little or no money. His basic economics wants of food, clothing, and shelter were scarce.

3.   Hand out individual copies of the decision grid or display a classroom version.   Review the terms costs and benefits with students, reminding them of the      definitions which are also on the handout.

A cost-benefit analysis grid is used to answer a “Yes” or “No” question.   This grid helps students to decide if Sam should give his Lucky Money to the poor man.  Have students list the costs and benefits of this action on the handout or lead a discussion and record student answers on the visual.

4.  Debrief the activity using the following questions.

  • What were Sam’s economic choices?  What did he choose to do with his money? Sam wanted to buy toys but could not afford them.  He could have saved the money to buy something in the future, or bought sweets and cookies from the bakery. He choose to give his money to the poor man.
  • What was Sam’s opportunity cost? Sam’s opportunity cost was the chance(or opportunity) to spend the money on his next best alternative or second choice.  Have students name possible second choices, including the choice not to spend it at all.  Remind them that only one of these would be Sam’s opportunity cost.
  • Do all people face scarcity situations with their money, even rich people?
    Yes! All people, regardless of how much money they have, tend to want more than they can afford to buy.


5. Exit Slip –  If you were Sam,  what would you do with your lucky money?  What was your opportunity cost?



Social Studies,Other