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Real-Life Math Project



  • Mathematics
    --Applied Math
  • Health
    --Family Life
  • Social Studies


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12

Brief Description

Kathy Touchet, a math teacher at Alexandria (Louisiana) Middle Magnet School for Math and Science, submitted this lesson in which students learn about life by assuming the roles and responsibilities of "real people."


Students will

  • learn to keep a checkbook.
  • reflect on their pretend lives and the lives of real people in similar circumstances.


real-life math, math, checkbook, family, sociology

Materials Needed

  • "life descriptions" and "daily-life slips" as described in the lesson
  • photocopies of checks and checkbook ledger pages

Lesson Plan

Before doing this activity, create a simple "life description" for each of the students in your class. On small cards or slips of paper write descriptions such as

  • Teacher -- $28,000 a year; married with one child and a baby on the way
  • Custodian -- $18,00 a year; single parent with three children
  • Mayor -- $30,000 a year; married with one child in college
  • Florist -- $25,000 a year; divorced, must pay $200 a month child support
  • Minister -- $24,000 a year; married with two children
Put all the slips into a container; then each student draws a "life" from the container. Students will use newspapers, the Internet, library books, and other resources to find a place to live and car to buy (or a monthly bus pass, or account for transportation needs in some other way). They must create a monthly budget, write checks to pay bills, and keep a check registry. Each day, the students enter class and draw a "daily life" slip out of a box. The daily-life slips might include information such as
  • dog hit by a car -- pay a $200 vet bill;
  • must pay 8% of your $600 credit card balance;
  • paid the month's phone/Internet access bill -- $73.28;
  • won $500 at bingo;
  • had tag sale -- made received $190; or
  • need tooth pulled -- pay dentist $85.
Students must record (deduct or deposit) the required amount on the daily-life slip into their checking accounts.

Lesson note: You will be surprised how involved students get in their pretend lives as they account for each dollar that goes into and out of their accounts.

Extending the Activity
You might have students keep a journal in which they write, on a weekly basis, about their lives.


Check students' checkbook accountings once each week for accuracy. Set aside time in class for students to share their "life" reflections.

Lesson Plan Source

A+ Lessons from Alexandria Middle Magnet School

Submitted By

Kathy Touchet, math teacher at Alexandria (Louisiana) Middle Magnet School for Math and Science

National Standards

NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates

MATHEMATICS: Connections
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-CONN.PK-12.3 Recognize and Apply Mathematics in Contexts Outside of Mathematics

MATHEMATICS: Representation
GRADES Pre-K - 12
NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

NSS-C.K-4.5 Roles of the Citizen
GRADES 5 - 8
NSS-C.5-8.5 Roles of the Citizen
GRADES 9 - 12
NSS-C.9-12.5 Roles of the Citizen

GRADES 5 - 8
NSS-EC.5-8.2 Effective Decision Making
NSS-EC.5-8.11 Money
NSS-EC.5-8.12 Interest Rates
NSS-EC.5-8.13 Income and Earning
NSS-EC.5-8.15 Investment
NSS-EC.5-8.19 Unemployment Influences
GRADES 9 - 12
NSS-EC.9-12.2 Effective Decision Making
NSS-EC.9-12.11 Money
NSS-EC.9-12.12 Interest Rates
NSS-EC.9-12.13 Income and Earning
NSS-EC.9-12.15 Investment
NSS-EC.9-12.19 Unemployment Influences

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