Lesson 3: Barter versus money



  • Single class period


Homework Task:


Although money has officially replaced the ‘barter system’ and people now trade money for the majority of the goods and services they need, bartering still happens. For example, there are internet sites where people swap clothes, games, books etc. Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to using barter or money as a way of trading. In this lesson, students will debate the relative merits of bartering and using money.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Activity 1:  Barter versus money

1.  Remind the class that barter still happens. For example, there are internet sites where people swap clothes, games, books etc. and young people swap match attax cards. Although barter still happens, money has officially replaced the ‘barter system’ of exchanging/trading goods and services. People now trade money for the goods and services they need/want.

2.  Tell the class that they are going to have a class debate about the advantages and disadvantages of bartering and trading with money.

3.  Write the following debate motion on the white/blackboard:

The world would be a better place if people returned to a barter system of trading.

4.  Divide the class into small groups.

5.  Instruct half of the groups to come up with arguments in favour of the motion and the other half to come up with arguments against the motion.

6.  Allow sufficient time for small group discussion before bringing the class together and facilitating the debate.

7.  Record the main arguments presented on the white/blackboard. If the following arguments were not made by the class, add them to the list and ask students to rank all of the arguments in order of importance:

Arguments in favour of the motion:

  • Money is not always required to get something you need/want
  • You could build trust through trade
  • If you have something that is in demand/popular, you can get more than the cost you paid for it by trading

Arguments against the motion:

  • Money is a fairer system
  • People can work out how much money they have at any one time
  • The value of goods and services are clearer when using money
  • You might get cheated or feel cheated in a bartering situation
  • You may not find what you need/want in a bartering situation
  • You might feel compelled to trade away something valuable because of your particular circumstance at that time
  • The values people place on trade items vary depending on the individual and the circumstances
  • Goods and services that are valued in monetary terms have a set value, whereas bartering or trading is much more subjective
  • It is very difficult to compare values of goods and services when they are not priced
  • It is hard to know whether or not you are getting a good deal when you cannot compare your goods/services with similar goods/services

8.  Ask the class to take a vote on whether or not the motion is carried.

9.  Conclude by stating that our current way of exchanging/trading is with money but there are occasions when barter is useful, especially when people do not have sufficient money to get what they need or want.

Homework Task

Distribute one copy of Student Worksheet: Shop around to each student.

Invite students to choose one good and one service from the list at the top of their worksheet.  They should write their chosen good and service into the first column of the table on their worksheet.

In the second column, they should guess how much each of these goods and services cost.

They should then ‘shop around’ or carry out some research (e.g. internet research or visiting shops which supply these goods and services) and get two different quotes for their four items.  These two cost-comparisons should be listed in column three and column four of their worksheet.

Finally, they must decide which of the two quotes for the two items they would choose and give reasons for their choice.

The steps for reviewing this homework task are given at the start of Lesson 4.


Lesson 3 Homework Task Student Worksheet: Shop around

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