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Best Buy Children's Foundation

Mathematics: Currency Exchange

Summary:  Using a formula and the current exchange rate, students practice calculating prices in dollars and yuan.

Minnesota Academic Standards Information

Subject Area Focus: Mathematics

Educational Level: Teachers may adapt the activity for the various grade levels.

Intermediate, Middle

Middle (6-8) Level

Grade 7

  • Demonstrate an understanding of rate of change graphically and numerically.
  • Apply arithmetic operations in the correct order to generate equivalent algebraic expressions and to solve simple formulas in real-word and mathematical problems.

Grade 8

  • Use algebraic operations to generate equivalent expressions, and use proportional reasoning to solve real-world and mathematical problems. Demonstrate the ability to manipulate an equation by applying arithmetic operations to both sides to maintain equivalence.

For the complete standard, see the Minnesota Academic Standards web site at http://education.state.mn.us/mde/Academic_Excellence/Academic_Standards/index.html

Intermediate (4-5) Level

Grade 5

  • Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates with fractions, decimals, and whole numbers, in real-world and mathematical problems. Understand the meanings of arithmetic operations and how they relate to one another.
  • Represent mathematical relationships using equations.

For the complete standard, see the Minnesota Academic Standards web site at http://education.state.mn.us/mde/Academic_Excellence/Academic_Standards/index.html



Objectives: To calculate rates in two different currency systems using an exchange rate.

Preparation: None

Time Required: 15-30 minutes; ongoing


  1. Discuss what an exchange rate is and have students figure out how to calculate with the exchange rates and do basic calculations as illustrated on the student activity sheet. Or, have students establish their own practice problems and system for calculating them. 
  2. Throughout the trip, check the student delegate entries on the weblog to get the cost of particular items purchased by the students on the trip. Then have your students calculate the value of the purchases in U.S. dollars. Consider having students collect information on the cost of similar items in the Unites States to serve as comparisons.  Use this data to lead to discussion on topics such as multiplication, exchange rates, international cost of living differences, urban and rural cost of living differences, or international trade. To focus on exchange rates, have students find the current exchange rate each day and use that for their calculations. 

Learning Resources: Student Activity Sheet

Federal Reserve Bank of New York Exchange Rates


Yahoo Finance Currency Conversion


Currency Exchange Rates


Printable Materials: Student Activity Sheet

Evidence of Learning: The following product(s) supply evidence of student learning.

  • Completed student activity sheet.
  • Data collection and presentation/analysis.

Special Notes

Technology Integration:

Incorporate technology tools and resources in ways that enhance and support teaching and learning.

Have students create a calculator or spreadsheet to track the prices noted by student delegates or other research and calculate the currency exchange and comparison to U.S. prices.


Change the activity to accommodate students with different needs, knowledge and skills.

  • Provide students with a form that includes blank spaces for students to enter each day’s daily rate within an existing formula.
  • Create a spreadsheet template for students to use.


In China, people use renmimbi as their money. In Chinese, "renmimbi" means "people’s money".  A unit of this currency is called the yuan.  The symbol for the yuan looks like this: ¥

The travelers from Minnesota will have to go to a bank or to a currency exchange to change their dollars into yuan in order to buy things in China.  The amount of yuan they will get in exchange for their dollars depends on the exchange rate.  This exchange rate shows the relationship between dollars and yuan, and changes every day.  To find each day’s exchange rate, you may go to a bank, find the listing in a newspaper, or check a Web site. 

Exchange rates can be presented from the perspective of either currency.  Here are the exchange rates from September 2, 2004. 

U.S. Dollars in Yuan: 8.0935      This means $1 = 8.0935 ¥ 

Yuan in U.S. Dollars: 0.1236       This means 1 ¥ = $ 0.1236 

Use the current exchange rates to calculate these values: 

$2 = _______________

>$10 = ______________

$100 = _____________

$50 = ______________

10 ¥ = ______________

100 ¥ = _____________

1000 ¥ = ____________

50 ¥ = ______________


Practice calculating from dollars to yuan and from yuan to dollars. You may want to use a calculator or a spreadsheet.  Find today’s exchange rate for U.S. dollars and yuan.

Today’s Date: _________

Exchange Rates:
U.S. Dollars in Yuan: _________

Yuan in U.S. Dollars: _________

U.S. Dollars to Yuan

  1. How much would a $1 can of pop be in yuan?   _____________  ¥  

  2. How much would a $3.5 lunch be in yuan?   _____________  ¥

  3. How much would a $150 television be in yuan?   _____________  ¥

  4. How much would a $1,050 plane ticket be in yuan?     _____________ ¥

Yuan to U.S. Dollars

  1. How much would 104 ¥  lunch be in dollars ?  _____________  $
  3. How much would a 480 ¥  hotel room be in dollars ?  _____________  $
  5. A tour of the Forbidden City costs 60 ¥. How much is that in dollars?  _____________  $
  7. An audio tape to go with the tour costs 20 ¥. How much is that in dollars?  _____________  $


Watch the Minnesota-China Connection weblog for entries for the prices of food and other items that the students buy while on the trade mission with the Governor. Calculate the dollar value of their purchases and compare the price to similar items here at home.