Shortage and Surplus


With our Shortage and Surplus lesson plan, students learn about shortages and surpluses as well as supply and demand. They learn relevant vocabulary and many related concepts that they then practice using to solve example problems.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to have your students read current events to learn how supply and demand currently impact shortages and surpluses in the economy.

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What our Shortage and Surplus lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Shortage and Surplus teaches students some key concepts about shortage and surplus and supply and demand, including the following: when supply is more than demand, this is a surplus and the value goes down; when the supply is less than the demand, this is a shortage and the value goes up; and when supply equals demand, this is equilibrium. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to define shortage, surplus, supply, demand, and equilibrium, will be able to explain the concepts of supply and demand, and will be able to apply their understanding of supply and demand to interpret data and graphs. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade and 4th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can make copies, cut out the Cookie Shortage/Surplus Activity cards, and create groups for the activity.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One optional addition to the lesson is to connect shortages/surpluses to a historical context depending on what else they are learning. You can also have your students read current events to learn how supply and demand currently impact shortages and surpluses in the economy.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


Supply and Demand

The Shortage and Surplus lesson plan includes two pages of content. The lesson begins by explaining that supply is the amount of an item or product that is available. Demand is the amount of the item or product that people want at a given price. When there is more supply than demand, we call it a surplus and the value goes down. When there is more demand than supply, we call it a shortage and the value goes up.

The lesson includes an example. In 1996, a popular toy called Tickle Me Elmo cost $30 in stores. Because it was popular, many people wanted to buy it for their children for Christmas. In other words, demand was high. It sold out in stores because supply was low, meaning there was a shortage. People started selling them for as much as $1000 because the value had gone up. The same item, Elmo, gained value because there was a shortage.

Reading Data

The next section of the lesson begins with a graph that shows supply and demand. As supply, or the amount of an item, goes up, the demand, or how much of it people want at that price, goes down. As supply goes down, demand goes up. When supply and demand are equal, we call it equilibrium. The left of the equilibrium point is where there’s a shortage of the project. In other words, there’s not enough of the product for everyone who wants it at that price. The right of the equilibrium point is where there’s a surplus of product. In other words, there’s more product than people who want it at that price.


The Shortage and Surplus lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


Students will work with a partner to complete the activity worksheet. Each pair will

Students can also work either alone or in groups to complete this activity.


The practice worksheet asks students to first match vocabulary words with their definitions. Next, they will look at a graph titled “Cost of Candy Bars” and will answer questions about it.


For the homework assignment, students will fill in the blanks in the given sentences about the lesson material. They will also answer a few questions about the provided graph.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade


Social Studies

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.