Teenagers love money. They love to make money, but they REALLY love to spend money! It’s one of the reasons why they are a highly targeted market for advertisers – you can count on teenagers to buy lots of “stuff!”
But, teenagers have very little experience with managing money. Some may have a job, others may have an allowance, but very few actually know what happens when you earn a paycheck and need to save money to pay for your every day expenses.
In my business math class, we spent time talking about payrolls and budgets. We discussed the different ways one can be paid, such as salary, hourly, and commission, and of course the deductions that occur on your paycheck, such as Federal Taxes, Medicare, and Social Security. The students were astonished as to how much money truly gets withheld from your paycheck!
We then moved on to talk about budgeting your money, and the typical expenses you pay throughout the year, such as utilities, rent or mortgage, entertainment, insurance, food, transportation, etc. The kids commentated on “how hard it seems to have enough money to pay for everything.”
So we discussed the importance of keeping track of your money by being diligent and organized in recording your spending. Exercising 21st Century Skills and digital literacy, we used Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel to create a monthly budget spreadsheet. Students learned how to create formulas within the software, and how to highlight, bold, and underline to make the spreadsheet easy to read. For some students, it was their first experience using Sheets or Excel, and many commented on how “amazing” it was to see the software do so many calculations, particularly in using the formulas function.
For the actual project, students picked a job and salary, and then used actual NYS Withholding Tables to determine their taxes withheld. They needed to use proportions to determine the amount for only one month. They also calculated the Social Security and Medicare amounts using percentages. Students then chose some expenses to include in their budget, and estimated how much those expenses would be for the month. Finally, students used Google Docs to write a reflection on what they learned from their experience creating this budget. They uploaded both the spreadsheet and reflection to Google Classroom, where I read their submissions, and replied with private comments and grades for their work. All of this was graded using a detailed rubric the students had access to from the onset of the project.
All in all, this was a great project for the students. Not only did they gain experience in working with budgets, but they exercised 21st Century Skills and Standards of Mathematical Practices. In particular, the kids used the 21st Century Skills of: Communicating, Analytical Thinking, Problem Solving, Finding and Evaluating Information, Creating and Innovating, and the Standards of Mathematical Practices of: Constructing Viable Arguments, Modeling Using Mathematics, Using Appropriate Tools Strategically, and Attending to Precision. In the future, I may have students create a real budget for their current lives. Perhaps the students would feel even more connected to the project, and they could even continue to use their budget spreadsheets through the year! Either way, the hands-on and practical aspect of this project proves to be worthwhile in forging business and math topics in this particular class.