By Lani deGuia, Guest Blogger and Curriki Member
Many students are aware of the importance of Tax Day and its impact on individual lives. They may hear conversations at home about refunds expected or money owed to the government. However, many schools do not include personal finance as part of their required curriculum.
The 2016 Survey of the States by the Council for Economic Education found that only 20 states mandated that high school students take economics, which is two less than the mandate in 2014. This is concerning because understanding how to manage personal finances is a critical responsibility for all adults.
But you can help! Financial literacy can be integrated into multiple core content areas including math, social studies, and language arts. We’ve pulled together some great resources to give your economics instruction a boost!
What’s the Big Deal about Taxes?
Most students know that when they become adults, they will earn an income through the career they pursue. But do they understand that a portion of this income must be given back to the government as taxes?
You can introduce the topic to students as young as elementary school. Wonderopolis offers a great exploration of Why Do You Have To Pay Taxes? where students can see the purpose of tax money and how the government uses it.
Middle school may be the perfect time to fully engage students in the realities of personal finance as part of their future. The 7th grade math unit The Game of Real Life makes use of a “Sims” family to extend learning into different conceptual domains. Students discover what percentage of their income is spent on various budget categories, and then use these figures as a springboard into discussions comparing them to the average American family, as well as to cultures across the globe. They determine their income tax bracket, budget for a family road trip, use 2-variable equations to predict income over time, and use class data to create scatter plots and generate simple statistical measures for the class economy.
High schoolers can participate in higher-order investigation of taxes.
- Dollars and Sense Tax Day is a video episode of Constitutional Hall pass where students can explore how Alexander Hamilton came up with a plan to create a national bank, the origins of imposing an income tax, as well as where the tax dollars go today.
- In Taxes: Where Does Your Money Go, students can use this PBS Teacherline activity to learn why the government taxes citizens, where the money goes, and how different income brackets pay different taxes.
- Tax Time Scavenger Hunt takes students through four useful sites, asking them to look for specific information that will broaden their understanding of how income taxes work.
- Tax Game shows how the link between a set of taxes and income distribution is an important, but difficult, concept taught in economics principles courses. The Tax Game simulation requires a student to set tax rates for an income tax, property tax, wealth tax, payroll tax, corporate income tax, sales tax, and an excise tax.
- Curriki’s Rates and Taxes activity allows students to become familiar with percents and taxes. Students learn how to determine the amount of tax a family will pay based on a certain income.
For high school students looking to take their understanding of finance to the next level, the SERC Portal for Educators offers multiple lessons on taxes.
- Comparing Tax Rates focuses on six letters to the editor that compare the amount of tax paid on two different incomes: $30,000 and $200,000. Tax rates are expressed in absolute dollars, tax per $1,000 of income, $1 of tax per income amount, and as percentages of annual income. Students organize relevant information and convert each stated tax rate to a standard form to make comparisons.
- In Documented Problem Solving: Determining Tax Structure the different tax structures are reinforced through the calculation of the tax rate at two different income levels.
Along with understanding paychecks, income, and taxes, budgeting skills are important to teach all students so they can achieve financial success in adulthood.
- For younger students, Money Comes and Goes has students read two online stories that introduce them to the elements of a budget and show that a successful budget balances money coming in (income) with money going out (expenses and savings).
- Middle school students can get hands-on experience in budgeting through Finance and Budgeting, where they will learn how to record debits and credits in an electronic ledger, calculate percentages of debt to income, and create a budget.
- High school students can completea semester-long Budgeting Project where they track all of their monetary interactions for one month and then use that data to create a personal budget.
- For those eager to tackle some of the biggest challenges in our society regarding budgets, the National Budget Simulation has students pretend to serve as an Economic Advisor to the President, who must increase military spending out of political necessity, while reducing spending in other programs to limit the deficit. Conflicting goals create a need for compromise and tradeoffs.
These are just a few resources available on Curriki that can help students investigate the foundations of economics and personal finance. There are many more to help introduce these concepts beyond tax season!
Lani deGuia is a Norfolk, VA-based Educational Consultant with experience writing and developing curriculum and managing school technology.
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