Benton Middle School students got a chance to try their hand at a real live auction held on Wednesday as part of their math curriculum during the fall semester.

The auction idea was born when math teacher Holly Burris was trying to develop creative ways to teach students how to count and handle money.

“I thought why not do an auction and give them fake money,” Burris said. “It will help them count money. At first I would give them little tickets and have an auction every other week that I would do in class.”

Burris began creating fake money in a number of denominations that kids earned by completing various tasks in class.

“At first it was just random items that I would hold up and they would count their money and bid on it as part of our math lesson,” Burris said. “That was the reward system. They had to keep up with their money and it was earned by following instructions and staying on task. There were different ways they could earn the money.”

Burris has used a similar type of auction reward system for the past eight or nine years, but this semester she decided to add a little flair.

With the project being so successful and seeing how well the students learned using the auction system, Burris decided to end the semester with a special treat. Burris chose to bring all the math classes together for one big auction with a surprise guest. Saline County Assessor Bob Ramsey is also a licensed auctioneer and Burris decided it would be fun for the kids to have him lead the semesters final auction.

“I usually make the kids shout out the numbers and I sure can’t talk as fast as he does,” Burris said. “I thought this would be really fun for them to be part of a real auction.”

Burris begins teaching the kids using smaller denominations such as ones and tens and gradually made it all the way up to millions.

“We were learning place value at the time and part of the lessons was that they also had to learn to correctly pronounce those big giant numbers and read them correctly,” Burris said. “That’s very hard for these kids because they don’t encounter numbers that big very often…basically we use the money to reinforce whatever skill we are learning at the time.”

Burris also said that with consumers of all ages becoming less and less dependent on using cash, the ability to correctly complete simple tasks such as counting and identifying money isn’t as common as it once was.

“In the debit card world that we live in, kids really don’t have a good foundation,” Burris said. “It’s a debit card world and they just don’t handle money like we did when we were younger. I try to close that gap.”

Burris auctions items from her own home as well as items she picks up on sale and in clearance bins.

“People also donate things,” Burris said. “It’s truly like an auction with stuff from wherever…[the students] buy things for people in their families.”

Burris also added that she has been impressed with the students willingness to help each other share items they’ve won. Students often buy toys specifically to give them to a brother or sister or friend.

“That’s what’s been so amazing to watch this year,” Burris said. “Kids will buy something and give it to their buddy in class that didn’t have enough money.”

Approximately 50 kids were able to participate in Wednesday’s auction which featured items such as toys, jewelry, books, clothes and Christmas decorations.