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Function Auction Activity

One of my favorite activities for introducing the concept of a function in Algebra 1 is to host a Function Auction. The first year I did this, I threw the activity together at the last minute.

function auction activity

I grabbed a random function/not a function worksheet off of the Internet and stapled some colored paper on a ruler to make auction paddles. Paint stir sticks also work really well for making auction paddles.

original function auction activity with worksheet I found online.

It worked so well, that I decided to create my own Function Auction worksheet.  

paper put on rulers to form auction paddles.

How does a Function Auction work?

instructions for function auction activity.

Teams are given $1,000 to spend. (I use Monopoly money. It’s not actual Monopoly money, but I found some clipart online that looks like it. Several teachers on twitter who have done this activity have created their own fake money with their faces on it. How fun!)

To start off the activity, teams are given exactly five minutes to look over the auction catalog before bidding begins. I caution students to use this time wisely.

I prefer to give my students the “auction catalog” inside of a dry erase pocket.


dry erase pockets

I cannot imagine teaching math without my dry erase pockets! They instantly make any activity more engaging and save me countless hours at the copy machine since I can use the same class sets of copies year after year.

Here are my current go-to recommendations:

If you don’t have a classroom set of dry erase pockets, you could also use heavy duty sheet protectors. But, I highly recommend investing in a classroom set of the pockets since they are so much more durable.

students participating in function auction activity.

Lots are auctioned off in order, beginning with Lot 1.

function auction materials set out on table.

The minimum opening bid for each lot is $50.

The bid must be raised in $50 increments.

function auction handouts in dry erase pockets.

After each lot is auctioned off to the highest bidder, the class will discuss whether it was or was not a function and why.

At the end of the auction, the group that has purchased the most functions wins.

students pointing at function auction page.

If two or more groups have purchased the same number of functions, the group with the most money left wins.

function auction template on student desk.

One year, I made laminated cards that said “Function” that I gave to each winning team that purchased a function.

cards with word function printed on them.

This made it much easier to determine the winner at the end.


drawing of laminator machine with text "laminating recommendations"

A laminator is a MUST-HAVE for me as a math teacher! I spent my first six years as a teacher at a school with a broken laminator, so I had to find a way to laminate things myself.

I’ve had several laminators over the years. I currently use a Scotch laminator at home and a Swingline laminator at school.

I highly recommend splurging a bit on the actual laminator and buying the cheapest laminating pouches you can find!

Function Auction Catalog

The auction catalog features 12 lots. I used images of functions and non-functions from released state questions from Oklahoma, Arkansas, and a couple of other states.

function auction catalog.

I also made a version with boxes around each lot.

function auction catalog with lines.

What Other Teachers are Saying About Function Auction

Function or Not a Function Worksheet

If I haven’t sold you on the idea of the function auction, I made the function auction catalog into a worksheet.

function vs not a function worksheet algebra

Free Download of Function Auction Activity

Function Auction (PDF) (4602 downloads )

Function Auction (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (1697 downloads )

For the editable Publisher file, you’ll need these free fonts: HVD Comic Serif Pro and Aaargh.  The PDF file will preserve the fonts and formatting.


Saturday 20th of November 2021

Hi! I love this idea and I have two question :)

1) During the initial 5 minutes of strategizing, what are the students usually discussing/strategizing? Since the goal is to buy as many lots as possible, are they generally talking about how to divide up the money to purchase each one? What else have you noticed that they talk about?

2) I would love to use this activity/idea for other secondary math topics. For example, solving a quadratic equation or factoring. How do you think this can be applied?

Sarah Carter

Monday 29th of November 2021

Mainly, they are discussing which lots they think are functions or not functions. Once they have discussed this, they sometimes shift to debating how much they should bid on individual lots or what their overall team strategy is.

I have done a Solving Equations Auction in the past where they had to bid on problems that were solved correctly. That might be a way to set up an auction for solving quadratics. Here's a link to read more:


Thursday 28th of October 2021

Hello! First of all, I am a middle school teacher and a longtime reader of your blog. Thank you so much for making your lessons and resources available to download for free! I just tried the Function Auction and the Linear Auction for the first time this week and my students loved them! The second time around, I changed up the scoring system to make things more interesting. I allowed teams to buy non-linear functions and give them to other teams. We then calculated the score with the formula: (number of linear functions)x(amount of money left)/(number of non-linear functions +1). My students really got into it and this way we had more to discuss when the non-linear functions were up for bidding.

Sarah Carter

Friday 29th of October 2021

I LOVE this twist! Thanks for sharing!


Saturday 25th of September 2021

I just came across this activity. We just covered functions in our class but I might hold on to this for next time. I was hoping I could get some clarification on how you run it. I imagine the idea is not to tell them the definition of function ahead of time. So my question would be, do you wait until the end to tell the groups which ones are functions or do you tell them after each lot to inform future bids? I can see it working both ways but just wondering what you've done. Thanks!

Sarah Carter

Tuesday 28th of September 2021

When I did this activity with my students, I provided them the definition of a function, but I did not explain it or work any examples. I told them that their job was to learn to apply the definition as we went through the activity. After each relation was "sold," we went over it as a class and practiced applying the definition of the function to that relation. This way, they could make changes to their bidding strategy throughout the game. 

Hope this helps! You can use this idea with many different topics. I have also created a Linear Auction in the past where students had to determine if relationships were linear. Other teachers online have used the auction structure to practice other topics as well. 

Allison Deal

Friday 26th of October 2018

I used this for my 8th grade students today and they absolutely loved it!! Thank you for the great idea!

Michelle B

Friday 20th of April 2018

I have a similar question. Do you give the students a "preview catalog" so they see all the lots at once or do you show each lot one at a time? Thinking this will work well for Complementary and Supplementary angles! Also wished I had thought of it for right triangles...ah, next year.

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