Apparently Life is Expensive….

My favourite math task of all time is a financial planning assignment. I have blogged about this previously, but I think it is worth mentioning again. The assignment is called “Making Ends Meet”. It was created years ago with a teaching partner, but it has grown and developed over the years. In this task students take the role of new university graduates who are just moving out on their own. They need to determine how they will pay all of their costs on an entry-level salary. I created a list of entry-level jobs and their salaries. I cut up the list so that each item on the list is on a separate sheet of paper. The papers go into a jar, and then students pick their career out of a jar. I think I need to update the list for next year, as many starting salaries have increased since I first created the list.

After the initial excitement dies down, students begin to move on to the first part of the task, which is calculating take home pay after federal and provincial deductions. I chose to leave off EI (employment insurance) and CPP (Canada Pension Plan) deductions this year, but may put them back on in the future. After determining the yearly net salary the students then determine the monthly net salary, and then the real fun begins. The students proceed to determine the various costs that they will have, including food, housing, utilities, transportation, medical expenses, miscellaneous expenses, and savings. During this phase of the assignment I usually have many students trying to negotiate with me if they really need certain items or with how many people they can share a rental apartment or house, and the buzz in the room is full of excitement. As students are trying to find somewhere to live I encourage them to consider distance to work, safety of the neighbourhood, and proximity to public transportation. Students then come up with a monthly budget, hopefully including a portion for savings. In this phase of the task the students are free to talk with one another and share ideas.

The last phase of the task requires the students to answer questions under a “test” situation and the students are not allowed to share ideas at this point. The amount and content of questions has varied from year to year, but the general theme is that they need to analyze the effectiveness of their budget compared to financial planning strategies and they need to deal with and pay for 2 of 19 potential unexpected problems (flood, broken glasses, etc). I created a numbered list of those problems. I have assigned the problems in various ways in the past, but this year I had each student randomly pick two numbers between 1 and 19 and then I assigned those two unexpected problems to the student.

The students and parents all love this assignment. Students in grade 8 do not pay for much on their own, and for many this gave them their first exposure to what is involved with living on your own. This year I had a student actually thank me for making her realize how expensive life really is, and she said that she was now a lot more appreciative of all that her parents do for her.

You can access the main task here. The “test” situation portion is not part of this handout, as I don’t want my students to access it online.

Have a wonderful day.

Posted by Ilana Cyna in Math, 0 comments

Making Ends Meet

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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Making Ends Meet

I have recently finished a budgeting activity with my grade 8 math class titled, “Making Ends Meet”. (The document is attached below.)

Each student was given a “job” with an entry level salary. The first step was for them to determine their after-tax monthly income. They then needed to determine how they were going to allocate their income to the following categories:

  • Food
  • Housing
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Medical Expenses
  • Entertainment
  • Sports/Fitness
  • Clothing
  • Miscellaneous
  • Savings

Students came into class with a report that outlined the distribution of income in their budget. For the summative task they were then presented with a series of challenges and unexpected problems to consider. These were not shared with the students beforehand.

It was a time consuming task, but well worth the learning experience. My students now have a sense of the value of the dollar, the importance of getting a good job, and the reality that life is more costly then they realized.

Have a great week.

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So You Think You Can Budget

A short while ago I came across a website titled the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I found it because I came across a book published by them, Math that Matters, and I was interested in learning more about their initiative.

I went back on the site today and was exploring, and found something quite interesting under the Multimedia and Interactive link. In their interactive tools, they have a section titled “So You Think You Can Budget”.  It takes the Canadian budget figures from March 2011, and allows you to decide how to spend the nation’s money. There is a detailed list of spending choices that represent the interests of the varied citizens of our country. It would allow older students to gain some understanding of the difficult choices that are involved in budgeting for a country.

And when you have some spare time on your hands, go explore their website. There are lots of goodies to be found.

Have a great week.

Posted by admin in Math, 0 comments