That is literally the million dollar question, right? Sometimes when students ask, "Why do we have to do this?" I'll respond with, "Because it might help you earn over a million dollars more in your lifetime than if you don't." Then I start walking away. Within a few seconds I'll hear, "Wait...what?"
...and there's the hook.
I always have these packets printed and ready to go for when this happens:
ll pause class because this is ALWAYS one of the best teachable moments of the year. I'll say to students, "Can we talk about money in your life for a couple of minutes?" (That usually gets their attention.) I might then say something like, "If you didn't have to go to school and could be done today and just start working, would you do it?" Some of the class will say, "YES!" and others will shake their heads, "No."
When I ask, "Why?" I'll often get responses like:
"It just seems like school is such a waste of time. Like, when am I ever going to use algebra in my life anyway?"
"Really, Mr. K, no offense, but I don't know why we have to take a history class if I want to be a mechanic some day."
"I'd still go to school because I want to get a good job when I'm older."
This is when I know the hook has been set and it's time to reel them in. I'll say, "Those are all definitely valid points, and I'd be happy to discuss all of your answers individually, but have any of you ever played The Game of Life?"
[This is when I'm always blown away by how many have played this game that's been around since 1860!] I'll ask a student who has played the game to explain it for others that haven't played it before. Once they're done I'll ask, "In The Game of Life how come some jobs you get pay more than others do?" The typical responses of:
"Some jobs require more skill."
"You have to go to school longer to be able to do certain jobs."
Then I'll ask them if they know what percent of students who start high school in the USA will finish. I'll take a number of guesses and then write on the board, "85%," and then let them know that the flip side of that means that 15 out of every 100 students in the USA who start high school choose not to finish for a variety of reasons. I'll add to that, "When I think about those 15/100 I often wonder if anyone has showed them what I'm going to show you. Want to see?"
This is where there's a resounding, "Yes!"
I'll select some students to hand a packet to each of their classmates. Once they have one I'll say, "Yes, yes, yes... I know... this looks like just another packet of homework that you've seen a million times in your life. The only difference is... you don't have to do it. It matters to me, but it also doesn't matter to me if it doesn't matter to you. What I can tell you though is the information inside of here might actually change your life. So let's start... but you'll want to get your calculators out because this is YOUR money we're going to be talking about here so I don't want you to miss out on some money."
As students begin to look through the packet I find it amazing how many students that don't normally dive into schoolwork actually dive into this.
You'll need computers, calculators, and need to be prepared to answer a lot of questions and help students double check their math because they want to know if they've got it right. That's a good thing.
As you move through the activity with your students you'll realize that you're doing something that really matters to them. I love that.
I've encouraged students to build upon their skill set my entire career. It doesn't matter to me if a student wants to be a surgeon, a welder, a police officer, a teacher, a dental hygienist, or a marine biologist. They need skills.
Maybe a four-year institution will provide them with the skill set they need to do what it is they want to do. Maybe it will be a two-year technical college, and maybe it will be something completely different. The main point is that they're seeing the math, money, and dedication behind what it is they want to do. That, too, is a good thing.
Matt @ Surviving Social Studies
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