Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Reality Check

Debra Mastro


Students practice living on a budget. They must plan for rent, utilities, and food and determine if they can afford the luxuries of a phone, car, gas, movies, clothes, etc., using a newspaper to gather their information.


The student develops and sustains a line of argument and provides appropriate support.

Adds, subtracts, multiplies, and divides real numbers, including square roots and exponents using appropriate methods of computing (mental mathematics, paper-and-pencil, calculator).


-Chalk board or other means of relaying the standard weekly costs
-Play money


1.Teacher acquires newspapers for the class. One classroom set is needed.


Prior Knowledge:
Students require basic knowledge of survival skills, food, shelter, water, and space.
Students should be able to perform basic math operations.
Students should be able to read the classified sections and shopping sections of a newspaper.

1.The teacher begins by randomly choosing a few students and giving them each at least $80 in play money.

2.The teacher then asks the students what they can purchase with that amount of money.

3.After the students name items such as CD's, clothes, etc., the teacher responds by saying, REALITY CHECK!

4.The teacher explains to the students that they are going to have to live on a budget.

5.The teacher collects the play money.

6.The teacher refers to the newspapers stacked on a table and tells the students that they are going to be using the papers to locate a job for which they are qualified for and a place to live that they can afford on their salary. (If students cannot locate an appropriate job, they are assigned a sum of money earned equal to that of a minimum wage based on a 40-hour week.

7.Students are then presented with the items that have to be paid out of their salaries before any additional purchases may be made. (Examples: $15/wk. electricity, $50/wk. food, and $10/wk. other utilities.)

8.The teacher instructs the students that they are to begin by locating a job because the amount that they earn determines the housing that they can afford. Students are then given the newspapers and begin the process of locating employment. Teacher must be sure that the students are clearly grounded in their choices of jobs. (It must meet the age, hour, and distance criteria.)

9. After the students have acquired their jobs, they are ready to begin looking for their places to live. Again they use the newspaper to locate affordable housing. Affordability is based on their incomes and must take into consideration the already consumed weekly payments for utilities. They need to determine location in relation to school and job. (For this lesson, all housing is furnished.)

10. Students then use the grocery section of the paper to plan their weekly menu and shopping list.

11. Now that the students have their jobs and a place to live, they must make determination as to whether or not they can afford to do things, such as buy clothes, have a phone, go to the movies, put gas in a car, purchase insurance, buy a T.V., etc.

12. Throughout the activities, the students are constantly using addition, subtraction, and multiplication to calculate the money that they have available.

13. After the students have completed the assignment, each student shares with the class his or her new job and address. They also tell whether or not they were able to afford any luxuries. The students share their budget menus with the class, and, finally, the student shares what reality checks they faced in the Big New World.

14. The teacher may use this as a springboard activity into a variety of lessons, such as career choice, the importance of education, consumer awareness, and long-range financial planning.


The actual calculations are the assessment for the math.
The written paragraph is the assessment for the language arts grade and should provide a valid argument showing that the student has found and met all basic living needs on the salary he or she can make.
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