Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

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What would you do with a million dollars?

I like the idea of a sneaky project, that creeps up on kids. For example, I’ve started a unit project by asking my unsuspecting students the following question on the board:

What would you do with a million dollars?

The project, linked here, leads students to learn about budgeting for an economics class I taught. Students reply to this with the typical fantasies.

I’ll buy a new car, and some new Jordans, and a new house!

But by adding a few caveats, we’re able to grab all of these kids wildest dreams and smash them against the rocks of reality. The main caveat is that students have to survive for 20 years off the million dollars, and they have to pay taxes. They first have to choose whether to receive the money all at once, or over 20 years. Kids immediately go to calculating the tax bracket and realizing that receiving all the money at once means you pay much more in tax compared to having the money split up over 20 years. At this point I tell students to opt for regular payments (although I imagine an interesting side story might be to take the money upfront and try to invest it in a stock market simulator to see if they can earn back the original amount).

From this point in, students have to figure out how to live on 50,000 a year. This is pretty close to the US national Median income, so it should line up with what they’ll make as soon at they enter the work force.

So then I ask them to think through what they would do with that 50,000 yearly amount, and make them budget how much they would spend on all of the following things:

  • Clothing
  • Household Products
  • Furniture
  • Utilities (heat, electircity…)
  • Inside Entertainment (Cable/netflix/music/videogames)
  • Phone
  • Gas
  • Health insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Outside Entertainment
  • Anything else…

Once they come up with these numbers, I have them put it all in a spreadsheet that gives them little suggestions of websites to use to estimate all of these amounts. The final thing I have them do is write a little paper describing what they did with the money.

If I had more time I would have them actually learn the mortgage formula ahead of looking for houses on Trulia, and use the mortgage formula to estimate a range of houses they want to look for. My kids used the estimators on Trulia and Zillow, which assume a down payment, and also don’t let the kids use their brains, so I would like to not depend on those.

Helping My Student Assistants Change Their Thinking About Math

A number of kids this cycle came to my desk begging to have a teaching assistantship to fill their schedules.  Since I have boundary issues, I now have to plan for these kids on top and their learning as they watch the rest of the class learn.  These teaching assistants are not student teachers from a local college. They are high school students, who are not necessarily stronger than any of their peers.  One student said they have a really bad history with math and another had not passed a class in over two years.  With these student assistants I could have pursued very talented math students, but they usually don’t have any trouble filling their schedules, nor would they have as much to gain from the experience.

Why have assistants at all?  Isn’t just more to manage?

Having assistants is certainly a job, and it is not worth doing if you do not have goals for them.  My goals for them is to have them view math from my perspective.  They will help students in class, grade the assignments that I grade, and talk with me about misconceptions students might have before giving feedback.  At the end of this I hope the students take a different view of mathematics.  Perhaps they could go on to take a serious interest in math in college, but I would be happy if they just approach the subject differently.  At the least, I hope the students would view math as something they can work to improve, and mathematical “bad”-ness isn’t a terminal illnees, but can be treated through correcting their misconceptions and developing a productive disposition.

For the rest of this cycle I am excited about getting them to finish the rest of the work for the class.  I want them to have a working version of the project that the rest of the class.  In addition, they could learn a lot from having to think of ways to scaffold the project, or re-word the current project.  Lastly, I will ask them to write about their approach to math, and if it is different than it was when we started. Their reflection will be informed by Approximately Normal’s posts on student teachers, but I’m open to suggestions…

We’ll see if any of the kids want to follow their teacher’s footsteps and teach a lesson their peers, but if they do I hope they will be able to get through it.

 

#19/33* MTBoS  *I took two days off over the weekend, and I missed another one a week ago, so I am going to keep this thing going longer to make up for it (Or maybe I’ll just be one of those once-a-day bloggers).

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