Eldersburg Elementary fifth-grade students put their math texts away yesterday and went car shopping on the school parking lot.
But with $1 million each in play money, not one of the 125, 9- and 10-year-old children experienced sticker shock on their adventure.
"We planned this math activity to eliminate a lot of book and paper tasks," said teacher Pam Alexander.
Earlier, the students dealt with weights and measures, purchasing power, delivery and financing costs for dream cars and family sedans. Now they were going shopping to practice the lessons they had learned. Mrs. Alexander used three of her family vehicles in the lesson, which the four other fifth-grade teachers shared.
Mixed with what the children called "regular old" Isuzus, Rangers and Caravans, were the Alexanders' 1928 Model A Ford and two restored Corvettes -- a 1959 candy-apple red model and a 1966 jet black Stingray with "the most awesome hubcaps," said Sean McCready.
"My dad drove me here this morning, and when he saw these two Corvettes he told me to ask the teacher if he could buy one," said Jessica Biden.
Mrs. Alexander said she is not about to part with the cars, but she enjoyed a show and tell with the students. She also enlisted help from her 23-year-old son Matthew.
"The red car was a gift to mom," he said. "We have been restoring it for about 18 months now. Today is one of the first times we have had it out on the street."
"Just don't lean on the cars," said Mrs. Alexander. She said the '59's shiny exterior cost $10,000 and it has a racing engine.
Kevin Schreiner wondered aloud why anyone would trade speed for paint. "Why did you do that?" he asked. "It would be awesome to race."
Before the young shoppers hit the "dealership," Matthew Alexander offered a few lessons in auto economics.
The 1966 Corvette originally cost about $4,500, he said.
He asked the students to estimate its current value."
"About $33,000," one student guessed.
That guess was too low -- by about $17,000, said Matthew Alexander.
"Wow, that's a lot of money to be driving around," said another student.
"I would keep that in the garage," said Sean McCready.
The temporary millionaires could buy any car on the lot three times over or any combination of cars until they spent the $1 million, Mrs. Alexander told the children.
"I'm gonna check my wallet to see what a million dollars looks like," said Chris Lamb.
"If you find a million dollars in your wallet, I want to look, too," said Mrs. Alexander.
A cold October wind kept the children sprinting from car to car while they took quick notes on prices and models, posted on the windshields. The chill -- and lack of sales personnel -- deterred dickering.
The children played the roles of smart shoppers well, looking for items that might detract from a car's value. Crouched on the blacktop, Steven Behan peered beneath several cars and thoroughly checked the exteriors. Others took looks inside.
"This car won't need a lot of work and I would buy it," said Stacey Sharp. "The mileage looks great, too. Only 250," she said.
"That's 55,250," said Mr. Alexander.
Practicality ruled as Rachel Priddy marked her preference for the roomier Isuzu Trooper, saying, "I have a lot of stuff to haul around."
Most of the children steered away from the green Model A, calling it an "old fogey" car. Mr. Alexander called it the best of the lot.
"I have been working with my dad on that car, since I got out of the stroller," he said. "I trust it. No matter what the temperature, it has never failed to start."
Later, back in the warmth of the classroom, the children used calculators to figure how many cars they could buy for their money.
"I would rather spend $1 million at the mall," said Kirsten Anderson. "But I guess I will buy that white Jeep three times."
"That was a Trooper, not a Jeep," said her classmates.
Some children found spending $1 million difficult. Robin Ridgely bought three of each of her favorites for only $379,650. She went back to the cars, shopping for more expensive models.
Karen Thompson overspent by about $237,000. "No problem. I'll just take back the vans. I hate them anyway."
In Caterina Manelli's class, money was more of an issue. After selecting their dream cars, the children were figuring how to pay for them. Their "credit" applications showed a sense of business naivete along with creative banking concepts.
"That's because many of them think of dad as the banker," said Ms. Manelli.
Andrew Prescott needed a car to get to school and "I could get stuff for my mom at the store, too," he wrote.
"If I have any money left from the loan, I will put it back in the bank," wrote Tim Aymold.
Joey Cairns said he had checked his prospective purchase and "it runs OK."
He also had a counter offer: "I have an account at this bank, and you can take 20 percent of my money until I pay you back."
Kandi Bowman made two promises: She would take good care of the car and pay back her loan the "very minute" she has $50,000.
Amy Langmead said she would showcase her car and use viewers' fees to pay off her loan.
"If you lend it to me this time, I'll never ask again," said Kathy Higdon.
Applications will be reviewed and approved or denied by the a board of the borrowers' classmates.
The decisions will be made within a week.