Regardless of the subject, grade, or level that I teach, one thing I want to stress to my students is the importance of managing one's finances effectively. Obviously a math class provides the natural platform in which to explore these issues, and I have been thinking about ways to incorporate real world problems.
Regardless of the socioeconomic bracket that our students exhibit, we cannot assume that they are receiving sound advice on how to manage their own money. Frivolity coupled with excess can be a habit that is hard to break, and the sooner that students have to manage their own budgets, the better. If we want to prepare our students for life in the real world, I think that this is an area that must be addressed throughout education.
A financial advocate that I admire is Gail Vaz-Oxlade, who is best known for TV shows Princess and 'Til Debt do us Part. There are different themes that she tackles with those whom she is trying to help, such as: a sense of entitlement, poor decision-making, and resentment between family members. As teachers, we cannot expect to cure all of these problems that may exist within our own students, but what we can easily do is show the cause and effect of our decisions. Some practical ways of doing this might be to utilize sample bills, from a cell phone or utilities company, and discuss how we can lower our costs. We can also look at the potential pitfalls of credit cards, with which many adults have difficulty.
For those of you who haven't watched an episode of one of the shows mentioned above, I highly recommend doing so. I think that they could easily be utilized within a math class (or parenting class for that matter). Either show can provide a springboard for discussion, and the lessons learned would be a valuable asset for students as they begin to transition into independent living.