Realistic Monthly Budget Activities

I have found that most students have little understanding of the living expenses and take home pay. This post provides details of a monthly budget plan that is useful for all levels of students and can be customized accordingly.

Here is a link to a Google Document with all components: job, take home pay, list of categories of expenses, and directions for activities to estimate the pay and expenses, and a comparison of take home pay and expenses with a look at other possible expenses. This can be revised to meet the needs or ability level of the students, as well as the user’s location. I have used this in whole class instruction in a general ed settings and for individuals working on life skills math.

Budget Activity

The Assignment starts with finding a job. I work with one student who has a postsecondary goal of college. He searched for a salaried position. Other students may be working for an hourly wage.

There is a take home pay calculator used in this assignment (2nd photo below). It is based on annual pay. I scaffold the conversion of hourly pay, which is a good calendar activity in of itself.

The chart below is the master list of expenses. Some expenses are computed on subsequent pages and some have the link in the row. The amounts are estimates intended to allow the student to engage in a monthly budget.

At the end, the student compares pay and expenses. I find that this is an eye opener for many students. They are not simply asked to take the word of parents or teachers on what life has in store for them, they see it for themselves.

Individual Activities

The individual sections are useful in isolation. I use buying a car to as an introduction to 2-step linear equations with down payment + monthly cost times number of months = price of car. For students learning to count money, the shopping activities can be used. I task students to shop online at a store like Target as if they had a $50 gift card (see image below). Once completed, they count out money to pay for items in the cart and they compute the balance on the card. This is an entry point into budgeting as they compare money they have with money they spend. I will keep a running list of prompts on Google Slides as data for how well the student stays under budget.

Intro to Systems of Equations: Camry vs Mustang Depreciation

The scatterplot above is an approach I use to introduce systems of equations. Here is the process I use. (Note: I have found that students like math associated with buying a car – relevant, real life application for them.)

  • In my class, students would have seen a scatterplot with mileage and price for a single car. I explain that we will now compare two cars.
  • To review, in a do now or initiation at the start of class I would have one group generate a scatterplot for the Toyota Camry data and the other groups, Mustang (Excel sheet for all of this note: this data is old). Then they would share with each other
  • We would revisit the relationship shown and revisit the idea of depreciation.
  • I show a Camry and Mustang and ask two questions: Which car do you think costs more brand new? Which do you think depreciates faster and why?
  • Then I show them the scatterplot above and ask which car has higher dots at the far left? Explain what this means (Mustangs start off with a higher price). Then I ask about the dots at the far right.
  • The students are then asked to estimate when the cars have approximately the same value.
  • Then I present scatterplot below, with lines of best fit (trend lines) and they are asked the same question. We estimate the specific mileage and price and write as an ordered pair.
  • Finally, I explain that this is known as a system of equations and the ordered pair is the THE solution. The entire unit will focus on finding an ordered pair as a solution.

Scaffolding for solving equations

 

 

 

Solving equations can be very abstract and¬†inaccessible¬†for students. The photo below shows a scaffolded handout that introduces students to solving two-step linear equations. The students are introduced to buying a car: down payment and monthly payment. This provides meaning for the variable (x is the monthly payment), for the constant (down payment) and coefficient (12 months – fabricated situation). This approach introduces the concept of having two steps and for which to choose. Take note of the little “PEMDAS” on the left side. I explain that solving involves using PEMDAS in reverse

 

scaffolding 2 step equations with buying a car