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Solve a Problem: Reconcile a Household Budget

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Teaching students to use math and problem-solving skills within the context of a real life problem helps them understand the role of math in everyday life. This chapter offers an exercise to teach students how to produce a budget to evaluate their household expenditures.
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Goals

Select a career and research the typical income and costs associated with it.

Create a budget template for family expenses.

Compare multiple spending scenarios, and analyze monthly expenses.

Select a vacation destination and estimate costs associated with the trip.

Create a poster to track progress towards saving money for the vacation.

Write a short summary report analyzing the affordability of the vacation.

Requirements

Recommended hardware and software:

  • Macintosh computers
  • Numbers (part of iWork ’08)
  • Pages (part of iWork ’08)
  • Internet access
  • Color printer

A relevant, real-world application for math is solving a budgeting problem. Students make a real-world decision, analyzing income and expenses, weighing their spending options, and ultimately deciding whether to make a large expenditure or not. Teaching students to use math and problem-solving skills within the context of a real life problem helps them understand the role of math in everyday life.

Using a spreadsheet helps students experiment with and compare different financial scenarios. Through an exercise like this, students are able to analyze financial data, arrive at a conclusion, and back up that decision with solid reasoning based on mathematical facts.

Project Summary

As part of a lesson in math or career planning, students produce a budget to evaluate their household expenditures. Students choose which purchases to make in order to balance their budget. By using Numbers, students can quickly compare spending scenarios on a single spreadsheet.

In order to deepen student knowledge and augment the exercise, you can introduce several variables. Students can select a career and ascertain the average salary for that particular job. You can also introduce unexpected variables that affect the student’s savings, such as home repairs, job bonuses, or an unexpected medical expense.

Once the initial budget is built, students pick a vacation destination and estimate the costs associated with their intended trip. They create a savings plan for the trip, and design a poster using Pages to track their savings progress. Finally, they defend their decision as to whether the trip is affordable or not.

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