Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of



What’s the best option?

Date of this Version



Taylor, C., Buchheister, K., Jackson, C. (2013). What’s the best option? Teaching Children Mathematics, 20(4), 216 – 220.


Copyright 2013 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc.


This department showcases students' in-depth thinking and work on previously published problems. The November 2013 problem offers elementary school students an opportunity to work with decimals in an authentic problem-solving situation. The questions on the activity sheet will guide students as they determine the cost of three different electric plans during several months.

Thomas Roberts used this problem with prospective teachers enrolled in his elementary mathematics methods course at the University of Kentucky. His students engaged in mathematical reasoning about decimal numbers as they selected an electric plan that would minimize the cost of heating a community pool. Because the class had recently completed lessons on representing and interpreting data, the problem challenged the prospective teachers to use what they had learned to analyze given data and justify their decisions using graphs, diagrams, words, or equations. Roberts was excited about the timeliness of the problem because a recent news story reported on an individual from Pennsylvania whose monthly utility bill suddenly skyrocketed due to a change in his provider’s cost per kWh (Owens 2014). Many customers did not read the fi ne print about their rate being a variable rate. This news story furnished an excellent segue into the Best Option problem-solving task.