Open for business

Each winter the Business Math unit offers sixth graders an opportunity to take a page from their parents' playbook and put their numerical skills to use in such real-life applications as balancing check books, calculating auto loans, and planning wholesome, affordable meals. 

Students are randomly assigned a consumer identity and over the next two weeks are tasked with making, and adhering to, a family budget for food, housing, and transportation. For example, this February one student played a teacher with two kids and a monthly salary of $2,400, while another was a lobbyist with four children and a monthly salary of $8,100.

Sticker shock is a common occurrence, particularly at the grocery “store,” where the students apply lessons from the nutrition unit in science to read labels and choose healthy items. Instead of making actual purchases, the savvy shoppers affix stickers with the prices of food items (scanned from weekly store circulars) onto their grocery lists.

At the close of the unit students prepare consumer reports, including bar graphs and pie charts on how they spent their money and how closely they followed their preliminary budgets. Some take pride in their fiscal prowess while others end up nearly broke, according to teacher John Watt. “Parents tell us that their kids come home with a new appreciation for how difficult and costly it is to provide for a family,” he says.
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