Making Ends Meet

Math No Comments »

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.

Posters for the Math Classroom

General Education, Math No Comments »

Once again, I have Sara Carter to thank for many of the wonderful posters that I have put up in my classroom. Two of the posters that I put up were her ‘Types of Errors’ and ‘Always Show Your Thinking’ posters. A few of my math colleagues were in my classroom and we began a discussion about these posters, and as a result of the discussion we made a few changes:

  • We changed the word ‘parentheses’ to ‘brackets’. This is more of a USA vs Canada thing. (Similarly, for order of operations we use BEDMAS instead of PEMDAS.)
  • We decided to take out the word ‘failure’ under Problem Solving and we adjusted some of the descriptors for that section.

We discussed the fact that we like the ‘Types of Errors’ poster and think it is important, and we agreed that it reflects the types of errors that we point out to our students. However, we felt that we also wanted to focus on positive things the students can do to achieve success. We decided to put up a new series of posters under the ‘Types of Errors’ poster. These posters will be framed in the positive, with the heading ‘Aim for Success’. The posters are as follows:

  • Always Show Your Thinking (Sarah already did a fabulous job with this one, no changes were necessary.)
  • Read and Follow Instructions Carefully
  • Show Your Work Vertically
  • Line Up Your Equal Signs
  • Explain Your Understanding
  • Check Your Work
  • Write Neatly
  • Ask Questions
  • Work Collaboratively
  • Solve Using Multiple Strategies

Did we miss anything essential? It may end up being too many posters, but we will live with it for a bit and see how it works. You can download the Word and PDF versions of the posters here.

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