Making Ends Meet

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Husband who broke his foot + car in the shop all week = missed #MTBos SundayFunday blog deadline

One of my favourite math tasks is a financial planning activity for my grade 8 students titled “Making Ends Meet”. Unfortunately we did not get to complete it last year due to time constraints, and so the version that I am sharing is from the previous year.

In this task, students are given the role of a recent university graduate just entering the work force. Each student is given a job or career (picked randomly out of a jar) and must determine how to pay bills with a starting salary for that job or career. In order to prepare for this assignment, I researched starting salaries for those fields in Canadian dollars. Students begin by calculating take home pay after taxes (my students needed assistance with this step). They then use the net salary to determine a monthly budget for food, housing, utilities, transportation, medical expenses, miscellaneous expenses, and savings. Once students have completed the budget and presented their work in an orderly and logical manner, they are presented with an unexpected problem. I have created a whole list of problems, and they are variations of this:

“You were filling the bath when the phone rang. A friend’s car broke down and she needed you to pick her up. You left immediately to go help her, but you forgot about the bathtub. When you returned, there was water everywhere and the floor was ruined. Unfortunately, insurance does not cover this type of flooding. The repair bills were $750. Calculate and explain how this will affect your budget.”

There are 19 problems of this type on my list, and the students get a random problem by picking one out of a jar. I cannot share the full problem list here, as I don’t want my students to have access to them.

My students have told me that this was one of their favourite assignments and it made them aware about real life expenses. Hopefully I can fit it in this year, as it takes quite some time to complete. You can access the document here. I am happy to hear suggestions as to how to improve this activity.

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