On Thursday the students were working on a shopping project. They were given a budget (on the order of five hundred dollars), and several “stores” were set up around the classroom where they were supposed to shop. The goal was to give the students experience with computations involving decimals, rounding, and percentages. There was also a prize for a student who got closest to their budget
Several student’s stood out in their methodologies. First amongst these was one student who was severely under budget, but met all other requirements for the project to be completed. Her justification was that she wanted to save as much money as possible to put into a savings account for college.
Another student figured out how much he could spend before sales tax, and shopped on that budget, taking coupons into account for an item before deciding to purchase that item. I actually saw two students doing this, and was quite impressed.
One student raised her hand, and when I asked what her question was, she said “I don’t understand tax.” So I asked if she knew what the tax percentage was. She said no. I then showed her on the assignment that sales tax was 7% and asked her if she knew how to compute what the tax was for the amount that she had spent. She said no. I again went to the assignment and pointed out the portion which showed how to do this and asked if she understood that. She said no. I asked her if she understood what a percentage was. She said no. So I started to explain that the word percent came from per centum, and it really meant per one hundred, and at this point she stopped me mid-sentence and said that she knew that and that it would be better if she just asked Mrs. Clarkson.
Most students shopped until their budgets were reached, and were severely disappointed when sales tax was calculated. They then started randomly removing items from their lists and recalculating sales tax after each removed item, until they were under their budgets. In all, I think that most students were able to see how decimals were important in “real life” and that learning how to do these computations is actually important.