Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Who wants to be a Millionaire?

I am starting my 5th year of teaching this fall. Last year I wanted to focus on student motivation and so I made a bulletin board with this title "Who wants to be a Millionaire?" and I decorated it with play money from various board games from home. On the second day of school I played the music to the game show "Who Want to be a Millionaire?" as the students walked in the room. Then I showed the students some data of average lifetime earnings at different levels of educational attainment. I found the data from a report published by The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. A bar chart in the report shows that the median lifetime earnings of a student with no high school diploma is $973,000 and $2,268,000 for a student who earns a bachelor's degree. After discussing the information in the chart, I asked the students what is the total value of their education. After determining that a college degree is worth more than a million dollars ($1,295,000), I wanted to break this down into something that would make sense to middle school students so I guided them through a series of calculations to determine the value of their education per year, per day, per hour and per class period.  We used these facts in our calculations: 12 years of education from secondary school (including 5th grade) to college education, 180 school days, 6 hours of school each day (excluding lunch) and 8 class periods per day. The results were truly astounding. Students found that if they graduate from college on average their education will be worth $107,917 per year, $600 per day, $100 per hour and $75 per class period.

Last year I used the $100 per hour theme throughout the year by giving out $100 bill pencils for prizes for student of the month and for other student achievements and exceptional effort. And I often reminded the students that by giving their best effort in class they are earning $100 per hour in future earnings. This year I plan to extend that by putting $100 bill stickers in students' notebooks and writing them notes recognizing their efforts in class.

Important Note: As an economics major in college I learned about opportunity costs and that is definitely what I tried to focus on during this discussion of money and earnings. I tried to emphasize to the students that money has value in the sense that it represents opportunities.


  1. This is so fun, Sara! I like it a lot. What a cool thing to do to help your students think long-term. Math is so cool. :) Love, Annie

  2. Love it Sara!!!!!

    The idea that each hour of school is worth $100 an hour in future income is so concrete to a middle schooler!

    I haven't taken time to read any of the blogs you posted. But, it looks like you've given great resources for parents and kids and teachers!

    I'll have Joe and Coby take a look at it.

  3. I think this is great! I'm excited to see future posts, Sara!

  4. Wow, every teacher should start the year out with this!