Back-to-school shopping

Kevin Phillippi
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As students prepare to return to class, back-to-school advertisements feature sales on clothing, backpacks, and supplies. The following problem involves a real-life scenario about making purchases with discount coupons—a wonderful context for teaching problem solving and critical thinking.

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    • Supplemental Materials (PDF 182 KB)

Contributor Notes

Kevin Phillippi,, is an elementary math program specialist for San Bernardino City Schools in California. His primary interests are to support teachers in teaching mathematics conceptually and to help at-risk students develop an appreciation for math.

Edited by Jane Wilburne, who teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in math and math education at Penn State Harrisburg. Each month this section of the Problem Solvers department features a new challenge for students. Readers are encouraged to submit problems to be considered for future columns. Receipt of problems will not be acknowledged; however, those selected for publication will be credited to the author. Find detailed submission guidelines for all departments at

(Corresponding author is Phillippi
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