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Yellow Pages Ad-dition


Phone Book Math graphic

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  • Arts & Humanities
    Language Arts
  • Educational Technology
  • Mathematics
    Arithmetic, Statistics
  • Social Sciences


3-5, 6-8, 9-12

Brief Description

Students determine revenue generated by sample pages from the Yellow Pages and discuss the value of advertising a business in this venue.


Students will
  • calculate, by hand or using a spreadsheet program, revenue generated by three pages of advertising in the Yellow Pages of the local phone directory.
  • use the data collected to make a business decision about whether to advertise a restaurant in the Yellow Pages?


telephone, phone, yellow, directory, advertise, business, revenue, calculate, chart, table, research, data, decision

Materials Needed

  • for each student, a copy of the local Yellow Pages directory or three sample pages copied from the Yellow Pages
  • a chart work sheet, as shown below (optional; students could create their own)

Lesson Plan

Note: This math activity is designed to be done by hand, but you might integrate technology by having students use a computer spreadsheet program to organize and calculate data.

Open this activity with a brief discussion about the Yellow Pages section of the local telephone directory. How do the Yellow Pages differ from other parts of the book? What kinds of people publish phone numbers in the Yellow Pages? What might be the benefits of publishing phone numbers in the Yellow Pages? Lead the discussion to how businesses use the Yellow Pages to advertise their products or services with other businesses offering similar services.

Share with students that Yellow Pages ads can be very expensive but that many business owners pay the rates because it's profitable for them to be listed among businesses that offer competitive products. A small Yellow Pages ad can cost hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year! In large urban areas, the costs of advertising in the Yellow Pages are likely to be greater than they are in a small, rural area. Costs vary by geographic location and by the size of the ad. Other variations might include whether the ad includes art or colored inks.

In this activity, students will use the local telephone directory and some fictitious ad rates to calculate the amount of revenue that a page in the Yellow Pages generates. The fictitious ad rates might or might not be close to rates actually paid in your area. You are welcome to substitute true rates for your local area if you can get that information from your Yellow Pages publisher. (Publishers might not be willing to provide that information; ad rates are frequently unpublished and often negotiable.)

For this activity, assign each student three pages in the Yellow Pages section of your local directory, or you might copy a number of pages and give three to each student. Have each student create a chart (or use a teacher-created chart) and do the math for the three pages he or she is assigned.

If you have time, it's a good idea to provide students with pages that include ads in a variety of sizes. You might even plan to give more complex pages (with ads of a wide variety of sizes plus a fair number of individual listings) to students with strong math abilities; for students who are not as strong in math, you might provide simpler pages that will require less calculation.

When students have their phone book pages, share with them that the rates advertisers pay for Yellow Pages ads depend on the size of the ad. Ask: What different sizes of ads do you find on the pages you have in front of you? (Students will share that they see full-page ads, ads that take up a half of the page, or ads that take up a quarter, an eighth, or a sixteenth of the page.)

To accommodate students who are visual learners, you might cut 16 squares from a page of the yellow pages; each square should be the size of an ad that takes up 1/16th of a page in the phone directory. Have students assist as you paste those squares over a sample page; students will see clearly that a page can be made up of 16 ads that are 1/16 of a page in size. You might also cut squares to show students that a page could include eight 1/8th-page ads, four 1/4th-page ads, or two 1/2-page ads.

At this time, provide a couple of sample pages from the Yellow Pages section of the phone directory. (Photocopying those pages onto overhead transparencies would be best.) As a class, count and record the number of ads of different sizes and the number of individual (1- or 2-line) ads that appear on each page. Record the results in a format similar to the one below:

Page no. 2-line 1/16th page 1/16th page with art 1/8th page 1/8th page with art 1/4th page 1/4th page with art 1/2 page 1/2 page with art Full page Full page with art

Hand out to students three pages from the Yellow Pages. Have students create a chart similar to the one above (or provide the chart for students to fill in). Have students use the chart to record the number of ads of different sizes and the number of individual listings on each page.

Introduce the Ad Rate Sheet. Provide the sheet for students in one of the following formats:

  • written on a large sheet of chart paper and posted where all students can see it;
  • printed on an overhead transparency and projected onto a wall or screen;
  • printed on a sheet of construction paper and displayed at a learning center where students will do this activity;
  • photocopied so that each student has a copy.

The simple Ad Rate Sheet below can be used if you do not have access to an actual Ad Rate Sheet from the publisher of your phone directory. (Notes: For younger students, you might simplify the activity by leaving off the "Extra Charge for Art" column. All rates on this chart are on the low side for most locales.)

Size of Ad Cost per Year Extra Charge for Art
1 or 2 lines    $120 No art allowed
1/16th page    $390   $50
1/8th page    $760   $75
1/4th page    $900 $100
1/2 page $1,420 $125
Full page $2,170 $175
Next, have students create a chart (or use a teacher-created chart) to figure how much revenue the Yellow Pages publisher took in for three pages of the phone directory. The chart below is a sample of the chart older students might use for each page. (Younger students might have fewer types of ads listed.)

Page number:____________

Number of ads Type and cost of ad Total cost of ads
      2-line ad @ $120 $     
      1/16th-page ad @ $390 $     
      1/16th-page ad with art @ $440 $     
      18th-page ad @ $760 $     
      1/8th-page ad with art @ $835 $     
      1/4th-page ad @ $990 $     
      1/4th-page ad with art @ $1,090 $     
      1/2-page ad @ $1,420 $     
      1/2-page ad with art @ $1,545 $     
      Full-page ad @ $2,170 $     
      Full-page ad with art @ $2,345 $     
Total ad dollars $     

Ask students to record on the chart the number of each type of ad that appears. Then they should figure out the total ad dollars generated by each type of ad. Finally, they should total the figures for each type of ad to find the amount generated by each page of the Yellow Pages. Have students repeat those steps for all three pages.

Extension activities:

  • Ask students to compare the revenue generated by each page. Why did some pages produce more income for the Yellow Pages publisher than others?
  • Have students determine which page generated the most revenue. Why did that page produce so much revenue?
  • Each student might figure the average revenue for a Yellow Pages page by adding the three page totals and dividing by 3. How did the average compare with the averages other students calculated?


Students answer the following question: If you owned a restaurant, would you publish a business ad in the Yellow Pages of your phone book? Why or why not?

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards


MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
  • GRADES 3 - 5
    NM-NUM.3-5.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
    NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

  • GRADES 6 - 8
    NM-NUM.6-8.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
    NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

  • GRADES 9 - 12
    NM-NUM.9-12.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
    NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
MATHEMATICS: Connections

  • GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics
MATHEMATICS: Representation

  • GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-REP.PK-12.1 Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas
  • GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.1 Basic Operations and Concepts
    NT.K-12.3 Technology Productivity Tools

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