K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • be able to make informed economic choices given varying real-life circumstances.
  • demonstrate a knowledge of the use of savings, stocks, and other investment options.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 Hours


Family Budget Worksheet (attached: doc | rtf)
Calculators (if desired)


This activity is completed after the students have already studied savings, inflation, and budgeting. Notes and study questions on the criteria for choosing savings are given the day prior to the activity. This day’s lesson usually begins with a review of savings and notes from the overhead about budgeting. This is followed by a discussion of savings and investment options for the average family.


  1. Each student will receive a pay check. The amount is determined by adding the student’s last ten grades together, assuming all ten grades do not exceed one thousand. The “checks” are issued to the students after they have been placed in families or place themselves in families. The families should ideally have 3 members. Families with less than 3 or more than 4 do not get an accurate picture of budgeting in this exercise.
  2. I generally allow the students to choose their own families. Natural selection seems to take place and the activity emphasizes the necessity to work hard. I do not compensate students who have been absent and have low paychecks since in the workplace many people do not have paid sick leave. Of course, in special cases of long-term illness, etc., I have enhanced the check some. However, if the exercise is to be a true-life lesson, the enhancing of checks should be kept to a minimum.
  3. Once the checks are distributed, the families can then begin to work their way through the exercise outlined on the assignment worksheet.


I generally walk around and monitor frequently. I use this time to interject help and suggestions. I can generally tell which “families” are performing as desired. I do not usually assess this activity for a grade. After all the “families” have had adequate time to complete the assignment, I lead a classroom discussion about the exercise. Some of the questions I might ask are as follows:

  • What surprised you most about your budgeting decisions?
  • What extra goals and wants did you add?
  • How did your choice of savings serve you later when inflation hit, or you lost your job?
  • How can the addition of a baby change your financial life as a family?
  • How can families hope to prepare for the changes provided by the economy?

Supplemental information


This lesson can be done in 30 to 40 minutes provided that adequate preparation is done. For example, the students are already familiar with their options as far as savings goes, they are knowledgeable about inflation and its impact, etc.
Also, students must be kept on task strictly. It’s a fun activity, but not one that I allow to take up the majority of the class time.

I often have the “families” discuss what they have learned about budgeting a family’s income from this activity. Then as a follow up activity, I have them write a paragraph to express what they know about what families everywhere go through every month when planning a budget. If the writing activity is included, the lesson takes close to an hour. I sometimes make the paragraph homework to preserve classtime.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Social Studies (2010)
      • Civics and Economics

        • CE.PFL.1.1 Analyze the concepts and factors that enable individuals to make informed financial decisions for effective resource planning. CE.PFL.1.1 Explain how education, income, career, and life choices impact an individual’s financial plan and goals (e.g.,...
      • Grade 8

        • 8.E.1 Understand the economic activities of North Carolina and the United States. 8.E.1.1 Explain how conflict, cooperation, and competition influenced periods of economic growth and decline (e.g. economic depressions and recessions). 8.E.1.2 Use economic...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Social Studies (2003)

Grade 10

  • Goal 7: The learner will investigate how and why individuals and groups make economic choices.
    • Objective 7.03: Compare examples of tradeoffs and opportunity costs of economic choices.
  • Goal 8: The learner will analyze features of the economic system of the United States.
    • Objective 8.09: Describe the role of money in trading, borrowing, and investing.