Math In The Real World: Teaching Practical CCSS Aligned Personal Finance

The Pew Research Center recently asked American adults to help identify which skills are most important to succeeding in life.

Communication was the clear leader, with 90% of participants agreeing that communication skills are most important for children to get ahead in the world today. The skills polled included: reading, math, teamwork, writing, logic, science, athletic, music, and art — and the results definitely yielded some surprises. No matter how you define success, I can no doubt argue that communication skills are a necessity. However, if money, salary, the ability to stay out of debt or feed your family are also part of your vision of success, then I would include financial responsibility or personal finance among the list. I think the Council for Economic Education (CEE) may agree with me. The same day the results of the Pew poll were released, the CEE announced the development of Math in the Real World, a free tool designed to integrate math with economics and personal finance.

With the support of sponsors Verizon, Moody’s and the Calvin K. Kazanjian Economics Foundation, CEE looks to showcase the natural complement between math and economics — a connection that may seem obvious, but one that is far too rarely taught in partnership.

These free, Common Core State Standards-aligned resources include lesson plans that cover topics from “Break-Even Analysis” and “Profit Maximization” to payday loan expenses and building good credit.

“As a former math major in college, I am excited that we can bring practical real-life lessons into the classroom to engage kids in three of my favorite subjects,” said Nan J. Morrison, CEO and President, CEE. “Integrating math with economics and personal finance, Math in the Real World’s lessons offer an effective way for high school teachers to cover a wide range of skills and concepts.”

To access Math in the Real World in its entirety, you must sign up as a EconEdLink member, which is free and easy enough given the resources that are available. By becoming a member, you can also save and annotate lessons, build quizzes, monitor student work with admin access to Virtual Economics (a technology tool that contains more than 1,500 lessons and 50 videos on economics and personal finance) and automatically get related lessons based on your profile preferences.

I was impressed by the seamless integration of both economics and mathematics content and believe that this is really the most valuable component of the program. For example in How Expensive are Payday Loans? students cover annual percentage rate (APR), finance charge, and interest as well as equations, formulas, and graphing. In Deriving Marginalism, they are introduced to fixed costs (FC), marginal cost, marginal revenue (MR), profit, total cost (TC), and variable costs (VC), all while utilizing first derivatives, linear functions, and slope.

This is a great set of resources to encourage and support teachers in bridging the gap between content and life skills, and the comprehensive lesson plans allow teachers to jump right in with minimal planning on their part.

This effort builds off of The PwC Charitable Foundation Inc.’s (PwC) recent $3.2 million dollar gift to improve youth financial literacy through game-based instructional software. PwC partnered with MIND Research Institute, Getting Smart Advocacy Partner, to bring the first financial literacy curriculum using ST Math to help transform how students learn important financial literacy concepts.

I couldn’t help but wonder how technology might be used to take this to the next level? What could this look like in a 1:1 classroom? I think teachers could really add a hint of innovation to the great, yet somewhat traditional lesson plans. Maybe teachers could include the activities on a weebly or class website, or have students contribute to a Google Doc to gather collaborative information. I think there could be lots of cool ways to make these lessons innovative and part of a personalized journey as well as interactive classroom conversation.

Nine Math in the Real World lessons are currently available on EconEdLink; an additional 13 will be published over the next nine months. To learn more about Math in the Real World and to use the program, visit

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