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My dollar is worth what?: activity requirements

Lesson description

The “My dollar is worth what?” activity helps students to learn more about inflation and compare the buying power of the consumer’s dollar over time. Students will answer questions about inflation and learn to calculate inflation rates themselves.

Activity objective

Students will:

  • learn more about the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) program
  • learn how to use the BLS online inflation calculator
  • better understand how inflation occurs and how it is measured.

BLS topics covered

  • Consumer Price Index (CPI)
  • Inflation
  • Average prices

Grade level

Secondary level

Time to complete

Approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour


Students will need

  • a pen or pencil
  • access to and the inflation calculator
  • a calculator.


Using a printed version of the “My dollar is worth what?” activity document, have the students read about the Consumer Price Index and review scenarios of inflation.

Next, have the students use the BLS inflation calculator located at to enter dollar amounts provided in various scenarios. They will enter the comparative buying power from the year in the scenario to today’s dollars.

The final portion of the activity includes scenarios where actual indexes are provided and the students are asked to manually calculate the inflation and record the change in buying power.

Activity assessment

At the conclusion of the activity, students should be able to:

  • briefly describe what the Consumer Price Index is
  • explain how inflation affects prices
  • identify the government agency responsible for publishing information on inflation
  • locate the BLS inflation calculator on their own should they want to compare the buying power for different time periods
  • calculate percent change and understand the calculations behind the inflation calculator.

Other resources

You may visit to learn more about the Consumer Price Index (CPI) program.

If you have any questions about this K-12 activity, or would like to provide feedback, please contact the BLS Division of Information and Marketing Services at 202-691-5200, or email us at

Last Modified Date: June 22, 2018