Helping students understand and implement a monthly budget is challenging, especially for students with disabilities that make it harder for students to conceptualize abstract ideas. I previously posted about a full budget activity. This post shows a means of scaffolding the concept of partitioning money in a budget context. The idea is to keep it simple for now and build from there.

Set Up

A parent of a student I support came up with the following idea. We start with a couple major budget items (rent, groceries, utilities) and the temporary idea that the remaining money is discretionary (not the word we use with the student). Money is printed (legal if the printed bills are small enough and only 1 sided) in lieu of fake money that does not look like the bills they would see.

The activity is guided by slides on a Google Slides presentation (link at bottom of this post). Note: the activity can be rerun as needed and the Google Slides slides can be copied, pasted, and information removed. This allows you to keep a record of each trial with this activity.

Job and Pay

The student can either search for a job on a site like Indeed.com or an ad for a job can be provided. The hourly rate is established and the student is prompted to compute the total pay on Google Calculator to allow a screenshot to be produced.

The student then uses the chart to provide a visual and scaffolding to compute the total pay for a month. I go with 4 weeks of 5 work days each, with no taxes to keep it simple.

The student counts out the money, first by grouping hundreds together to get a \$1,000. Then the total is moved next to the envelopes.

The pay is entered into a bank balance table to provide practice with the format of a check register. This helps provide structure and having the money counted out on the table allows the student to see a concrete representation of the bank balance table. (Note: I slide the money to the left to allow space to move the money to the envelopes as the student pays bills.)

Paying Bills

The first bill is rent. The student is prompted to search for an apartment on a website like Apartment.com, take a screenshot, and paste into a slide.

The student then pays the bill by counting out the money and sliding the money towards the envelope.

The student then enters the rent into the bank balance. I then point to the money pile on the right in image above and refer to it as rent. I then point to the rent entry into the bank balance. Similarly, I point to the pile on the left, refer to it as the balance and count it out, then point to the new balance in the table. This provides a concrete representation for the bank balance.

I found a website that provides average bill amounts for our state. The student clicks on the link, takes a screen shot of the average costs, and pastes it into the slide.

We focused only on heat and electricity. The student identifies both amounts (I round to the nearest 5 to keep it simple) and then pays both by moving the money over.

Both bills are entered into the bank balance. I then point to the two piles of money used to pay the bills, point to the entries into the table below, point to the pile of remaining money, and point to the entry into the balance in the table below.

Finally, the student makes a shopping list of food items for all 3 meals for the week. To make it easy, we can assume the the same meal each day. The student is provided a lot of leeway in what he or she chooses and what amounts. The amounts they choose may not be enough for a week. That can be addressed in grocery shopping activities conducted in isolation.

The student shops online for the items and takes a screenshot of the cart.

The student completes the table to determine the total cost for a month.

The student moves the money over and then this total cost is entered into the bank balance. The same comparisons between money piles and cost and balance are presented. Then the remaining money is free to use for whatever the student wants. At this point, you can have the student go shopping for clothes or whatever.

Here is the Link to the Google Slides file. You can make a copy to access it.

This post provides details about an artifact that has a manipulative and visual representation of tax rate and discount rate. These contexts are used as an introduction to percent change. The manipulatives are presented on a Google Jamboard.

Overview

The price or original price is presented as dollar bill. The bill is cut into proportional pieces to show the increase or decrease amount, visually, as a part of the original amount. The pieces can be moved around the Jamboard and replaced by other denominations.

Slides

The slides are presented in the slide show below. They are arranged in the following order. the slides show the different positions of the manipulatives, e.g., how the \$20 bill is cut into discount and sales price.

• Slide 1: 5% Tax Rate for \$20 price – compute the total to pay
• Slide 2: 20% off discount for \$20 original price – compute the sales price
• Slide 3: generic tax rate
• Slide 4: generic discount rate

Here is a link to the Jamboard. You must make a copy to access it.

Budgeting and explaining the act of overspending are complex topics to address. This post details an authentic experience for overspending, but in a safe setting.

Background

I have previously posted about a running bank balance, gift card balance, and a comprehensive set of budgeting activities. These are activities that simulate various aspects of budgeting. When I co-taught life skills math, we took the students on a field trip to the grocery store. It was then I saw the quantum leap in task demand for shopping in an authentic setting compared to the simulated activities we created at school.

Real-life Budget Activity

To help a student unpack the concept of a spending limit and the act of overspending, I created an in person shopping experience at Barnes and Noble. I purchased a gift card with a balance of \$1 (image below). The student I was helping was tasked with purchasing an item that cost over \$1. He had experience with ordering and paying on his own with enough money provided. This time he was in a position to overspend. I was ready with cash and stepped in. This allowed him to experience, firsthand, the overspending and budget situation.

Clearly, we must take into account the level of anxiety a student may have with such an activity before undertaking it.

Tenths vs Tens…Hundredths vs Hundreds. Problematic for many students. I believe this is a conceptual problem. This post provides an approach to unpack the concepts through money in a scaffolded handout.

Overview

Money is likely prior knowledge for many if not most students, and is a relevant context. This handout attempts to leverage interest or knowledge of money to unpack decimal place values. In the first page, the concept of “tenth” is addressed with dimes as 1/10 of a dollar. Similarly, “hundredth” is addressed with pennies as 1/100 of a dollar. A key point to consider is that US monetary system base unit is a dollar. More on that in the other pages.

Hundreds to Hundredths

The handout aligns each place value with the appropriate currency. This is followed by writing each number in numeric form and then word form with the place value table as a guide. To enhance the word part, you can highlight the each place value in money, digit, and word in the same color (e.g., the “2” in yellow).

Also, note the shading. The dollar as the base unit is in the center and shaded the darkest. The tens and tenths are shaded the same as they are a factor of 10 from ones. (I don’t reference the term with students.) Same for hundreds and hundredths.

Thousandths

here is a link to the handout.

Online Personalized Consumer Math Board Game

The game is played on a Jamboard. There are moveable game pieces on the left (Lego figures chosen to mirror the players – no hair is me), along with movable bills. There is a white rectangle partially covering the cashier’s money. It is a moveable rectangle I use to reveal the money when the cashier pays out money to a player. The money is subsequently covered again. When money is paid, the appropriate number of bills are moved to the cashier’s counter. Change can be computed and given. (technical note: you can click on an object on Jamboard to change its order, e.g., click on the bills to move them back, behind the rectangle.)

The game is a version of the Allowance Game, which is appears to be a version of Monopoly. The goal is to simulate budgeting and real life spending situations in an interactive and gamified way. The spaces can be revised to cater to the interests and reality of the players. The activities are all ones that I have used in isolation with students I help. The game can be played online and with multiple players who need to learn consumer math topics. (When you share the Jamboard with others, you can make them editors which allows them to move pieces.)

Players start with money in a bank account (center of the board) and then roll a virtual die and move accordingly. If a player does not have enough money for a spending activity, the activity cannot be completed. For some experiences, they are limited in what they can spend, e.g., buying a birthday present. (For rent, I will use an IOU until the player makes enough money – obviously a lot to possibly unpack in this scenario.) Spaces have an activity that falls into one of three categories:

• earn money at a job by rolling dice for the number of hours worked
• have a static money experience, e.g., get \$20 from birthday or spend \$12 on tooth brush
• have a dynamic money experience, e.g., spend money on Amazon or attend a baseball game and the player goes to a related website (for example, a player buys a Red Sox ticket and a YouTube video of highlights of a game is shown – maybe 2 minutes)

A couple notes: I left the START space empty and am thinking I will move the find a job activity to that space. As of this posting I did not have students find a job yet and simply opened a link to a Target store site for employment and showed them a job ad. I think I will start the game with each player finding a job and rolling the die to earn money at the start.

Below are the steps I use to create and revise the game. If you have any suggestions, please post in the comment section.

Here is a link to a master copy of the game on a Google Doc. It can be copied and then revised. I store my game pieces on here as well.

Here is a link to a master copy of a WORD document I use to position the board with a cashier to create the image shown on the Jamboard.

The image created can be uploaded to Jamboard using the Set background function.

Here is a link to the dice rolling site I use. Each player can open it or I will roll for everyone.

Unit Cost and Actual Shopping

I previously shared that grocery shopping has a lot of tasks that are overlooked. One is working with unit costs. There are two math tasks related to unit cost, interpreting what a unit cost is and computing the total cost for buying multiple items.

When I take a student into a grocery store to work on unit costs, where is what I do. I start with a pack of items (photo below) and ask the student to compute the cost for 1 item, in this case, “what is the price for the pack of chew sticks, how many in a pack, how much for 1 chewstick?” Then I prompt the student to compute the total if he buys 3 packs. This allows the student to differentiate between the two tasks.

The cost per items is easier to grasp and then is followed with the same prompts for a jar of sauce (below). I have the student compare unit costs for the large vs the small jars and ask, “do you want to pay \$4.99 per ounce or \$5.99 per ounce.” This language is more accessible than “which is a better deal?” You can work towards that language eventually.

These tasks can be previewed at school with a mock grocery store. The price labels can be created on the computer.

Counting Money – Jamboard

If you have a student who is learning to count money, here is a virtual set up to do so. I suggest having the student do a test run by moving coins into a box and bills into a box. It is easy to duplicate each item by clicking on the item to duplicate it.

If it works, you can insert images of items to purchase. Note, I start with just pennies or just \$1 bills and incrementally add additional currency. This is useful for developing number sense.

I also present items to purchase that are of interest to the student – the image below was used with a student who loves Minecraft.

Counting Money at the Store

The way a student counts money in school on a school desk or table (top photo) is the way he or she will attempt count at the register as seen in the 2nd photo in which the student pulled all bills from his wallet then counted, with some bills folded. (Bonus if you can identify the woman in the photo!!!)

In the top photo (below) I had the student pull bills out from his wallet, with the bills unfolded and in order in his wallet (you can see he pulled a \$20 bill first). In the next photo you can see that he is counting out the bills from the wallet as he did in practice.

One step in reading and analyzing scatterplots is simply identifying what the dots on the graph represent. Students who do not understand the meaning of the points, including the position, will struggle to interpret the graph. This post outlines a Jamboard activity to support interpretation of the points.

Overview

I present the scatterplot of used Ford Mustangs on a Jamboard (image above) with ads for two used Mustangs along with a cutout of each car. The cutouts are used to help the students understand the reasoning behind the position of each point. Here is a FB Reel and a YouTube video showing how the Jamboard can be used. To access the Jamboard, you must make a copy. See image at bottom of post.

Steps

First, I take the cutout of the first car and “drive it” along the x-axis (top 3 photos in gallery below). This helps them understand the horizontal axis placement. Then I move the car up to the appropriate price (bottom row left). Finally, I replace the car cutout with the bigger blue dot that was placed by the ad with the car. We then discuss that a dot can be used to represent that car and the location on the scatterplot is based on the two values in the ordered pair (which can be typed into the ( , ) in the Jamboard next to each car.

The same steps are used for the other Mustang (see it “driving” along the x-axis below).

The next step would be to identify additional points on the scatterplot. I then revisit driving the cars and show that driving the car more miles results in a lower price and driving the car less miles results in a higher price.

Finally, we discuss that this is a general trend but that it is not always true for each car. I highlight a couple points where one of the cars has more miles and a higher price (below). This leads into a discussion about additional factors influencing price.

Complementary Activity

An related I have used is having students create their own scatterplot for mileage and price of used cars. They shop on Carmax.com. This allows them experience the scatterplot from a data and context point of view.

Make a copy to access Jamboard.

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.