Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

Category: Classroom Resources

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.

Using YAMM to send personal emails to students

So I needed to convince students to open up an email on a Friday night, so they would know to come in to Saturday School the next day.  So I decided to use YAMM!  YAMM is Yet Another Mail Merge, and it is an add on for google sheets.

How do you use it to send emails to each of your students?

1. Write a draft of the email that you want to send but don’t send it, keep it as a draft.  In the email if there are places where you want the student’s first or last name to appear use <<first>> or <<last>>.  Here is the email that I sent:

Dear <<First>>,

I’m coming back early from my conference because I wanted to make sure that as many students earn credit as possible.  Given that you, yes you <<First>> <<Last>>, have a chance to earn credit, please come to Saturday school to take advantage of it.  If you already gave the assignment to one of my assistants, let me know.
I hope to see a lot of kids on Saturday,
The next step is to create a google sheet with the kids first and last name, as well as their email addresses in each row.  It’s important that the first column of the spreadsheet have the headers, which would be ‘first’, and ‘last’ above the columns with that information.  Inside of this google sheet, you can go to the add on market place, search for YAMM and authorize it.
The final step is to go through and carry out the YAMM instructions.  It walks you through it, but here are the basics.  The first window will ask if you want to buy anything, but purchases are optional.  It will ask you for the recipients, which would be the email addresses.  Then, you choose the draft and it loads all of the recent draft emails from the associated email account.  Finally, you can test send the emails, or send them all!

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