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tough decisions when their budgets are tight: do they purchase a lower-priced rat—or an expensive owl? On a more serious note, I begin my unit on life skills by having students draw their


imaginary wonderful future home and car. They often add an entertainment room, a pool, a few cars, and lots of video games. After they have shared their fantasy life with their classmates, I explain that, in most circumstances, the wages of a college graduate are typi- cally much higher than that of a high school graduate, and certainly more than that of a dropout. There are exceptions to this, for example, innovators like Bill Gates or licensed tradesmen like plumbers. But we discuss various jobs the students are interested in pursu- ing, and how they can best prepare for their future. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office created Project LEAD (Legal


Enrichment And Decision-making) to motivate at risk fifth-grade students to stay in school. I have modified one aspect of the program, where students randomly select a pay- check, and have to create a monthly budget. They might get a paycheck of a high school graduate who has a child, or a childless professional-degree holder. Based on the luck of the draw, two professional degree holders might choose to share a


Many of the


students determine that with their paycheck and


budget it is cheaper to stay at home to keep their costs low.


home together very comfortably, but students become very frustrated trying to put a bud- get together when they play the role of a high school dropout. One student came up to me and asked, “Do I really need electricity?” Many of the students determine that with their paycheck and budget it is cheaper to


stay at home to keep their costs low. This life skills budgeting project shows my students the vast difference between their imaginary life and what their reality could be. I want them to pursue their dreams, and hope this exercise remains with them should they con- sider giving up on their education too early in life.


Healthy Meal Planning


When I want students to practice rounding or multiplying by decimals, I pick up a class set of ads from the local supermarket. They are a great way to discuss buying healthy foods that are good to eat every day. If we are practicing rounding skills, I have pairs of students work on a $20.00 daily


budget for healthy foods, rounding items to the nearest dollar. Additionally, if I want my students to work on decimal multiplication, I ask them to purchase four of every item; so for a $2.25 item, they multiply $2.25  4. Students love to go shopping and spend imagi- nary money! I ask them to organize their expenditures into meals they will eat throughout the day, checking for a balance of vegetables and enough protein.


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