How Much is a Million?


This is an activity based on the picture book How Much is a Million?

Achievement Objectives
NA3-1: Use a range of additive and simple multiplicative strategies with whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percentages.
NA3-4: Know how many tenths, tens, hundreds, and thousands are in whole numbers.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  1. Students will be able to express place value amounts in multiplicative terms (for example 10 thousand is 100 x 100)
  2. Students will be able to add and subtract whole number amounts to 1,000,000
Description of Mathematics
  1. The decimal place value system is based on the fact that each place increases (to the left) or decreases (to the right) by a factor of 10.
  2. Once one understands the magnitude of 1000, then a million can be understood as 1000 thousands.
Required Resource Materials

Junk mail

Million dollar notes (NDP Material Master 4-9)

Place value houses (NDP Material Master 4-11)

How Much is a Million? by David M. Schwartz

Real estate flyers

Auto trader flyers

Access to internet


Million Dollar Spend Up
This activity is based on the picture book: How Much is a Million?

Author: David M. Schwartz
Illustrator: Steven Kellogg
Publisher: Harper Collins (1985)
ISBN: 0-688-09933-5

The Mathematical Magician presents the numbers: one million, one billion and one trillion as a set of scenarios to help his audience conceptualise the vast difference between these numbers.

Lesson Sequence:

  1. Prior to reading, explore your students’ understanding and conceptualization of very large whole numbers. How long would a million millimetres be? How heavy is a million grams? If a million is 1000 thousands, how much is a billion in thousands or millions? How long would it take to count to a million? A billion? A trillion? Review the place value house designations for million, billion and trillion.




  2. Share the book with your students. As you read the story, refer back and forth to the models presented for comparison. For example when you reach the description of counting to one billion refer back to what it was to count to one million. Before you get to the trillion section ask students to predict how long it will take to count, how big the goldfish bowl will be, and how long the pages of stars will be.
  3. Discuss a few examples from the book. Relate these back to the large numbers recorded at the beginning of the session. A million is 1000 thousands, a billion is 1000 millions, and a trillion is 1000 billions. There are examples on the internet of pictures or models of these numbers in dollars or grains of rice.
  4. After reading, give each student a million dollar note (from the numeracy place value money!). Tell them they have a million dollars to spend and set your class criteria togteher.
    For example: Will they be limited to a certain percentage for donations to charities? Will they have to have a theme for their individual spend up (for example setting up a horse farm or an orchestra)? What are your expectations for presentation (for example will they create a poster with pictures of each thing they buy or a power point presentation?). How will the maths be recorded: as a running total or a subtraction list? If they buy multiples of things (like 4 airfares) how will they show their calculations?
  5. Following these projects explore what a billion dollars means.

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