Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Schooled in Budgeting: A story of how my frugality made it into the classroom

For those of you reading that do not know me, I am a teacher by profession. I teach middle school math and science across grades six, seven and eight. I often try to bring things happening in the real world into my class and make students consider real world situations or possibilities in context with their math.

I often say there are three people in this world, "Those that don't understand math, those that do understand and those that use math in their life".

I want students to be able to understand and know how numbers work in real life!

Here is how this concept played out in my classroom when budgeting and curriculum met. We were working on a unit relating to percentages. This unit even includes the ideas of mark ups, discounts, tax simple interest and commission. I challenged myself to create a project that had students use their percentage skills in a real way that can translate to life outside of and after grade school.

What I came up with is a project in which they researched a profession and made a rough monthly budget using percentages of their monthly salary. Keep in mind these are 6th and 7th graders so the monthly budget doesn't include everything.

Some focuses of this project for me were prioritizing the cost of monthly budget items and giving students "checkpoints" to evaluate and make decisions based on their salary left.

Here is a link to the assignment itself:

Some takeaways that I had from the project:

  • Students were engaged in their learning and were having discussions among each other and with other teachers and their parents
  • They were forced to make decisions based on salary. Some of these decisions were living with a roommate, living somewhere else, or driving a used car
  • Some students decided to change career to have more salary to work with
  • Different students put a different priority on houses, cars and entertainment costs
  • Students made varying amounts of salaries work in general. Whether they made $30,000 and year or $200,000 a year they could make decisions to make their budget work
Some takeaways from students:

  • Many students said that more went into making their budget work every month than they originally thought
  • Students commented that they are glad they had this experience because they can see how it will translate to life
  • Students have had ongoing dialogue with parents and friends about budgeting
  • A student asked when you learn budgeting in school...I let them know that you generally do not
  • A comment that was interesting was a students said, "So if I make x amount of money I cannot just live wherever I want?"
  • Planning puts you in a better spot than if you do not plan

The fact is that budgeting and financial planning is only taught  by parents or through self-research unless those conversations happen at home. Fortunately, many of my students have those conversations with parents as it is an affluent district in general. But for the kids that don't get those experiences, it was a great opportunity to start considering budgeting. 

Perhaps the comment that made me chuckle the most was, "Man, it is tough to budget on this teacher salary". My response was, "Bro, you need to read my blog!".

Thanks for reading :)

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