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Middle School Math Back to School Lesson: Budgeting with Harry Potter's Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1)
My approach to teaching math has been proved time and time again in the other lessons I have shared on Hubpages so far. So when I had to teach the topic of budgeting, I found an awesome interdisciplinary lesson (one that uses more than one subject are, for instance math and english) through my affiliation with National Council of Teacher's of Mathematics. The lesson utilized middle schooler's love for the now famous book and movie series, Harry Potter by JK Rowling. I have to share that I, myself, as an adult have read every book and after reading the whole book series also saw all the movies as well. I was such a fan of the books that I actually had my husband take me (before we had kids of course) to get the last book at midnight the night it was released at our local bookstore (this was before the age of E-books of course).
So, when I came across this lesson plan, I thought first and foremost this is something that I can not only relate to my students because of my love and passion for this series, but because most youngsters happen to love Harry Potter too (whether they have read the books, seen the movies or both).
Table of Contents
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Book 1
From the very first pages of the very first installment of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1), I was hooked and so too it would seem the world over. The books are written for teens and young adults, but many adults too fell in love with this book series.
So how does the story begin for Harry in the first book? For 10 years, Harry lived with his Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and cousin, Dudley after his parents died when he was just a baby by the hands of "He who should not be named" (Voldemort). Harry's only family that he has known growing up thus far loathes and despises him. He was made to live and sleep under the stairs in a small cupboard.
In a blink of an eye this all is about to change, when a mysterious letter is delivered to Harry by the friendly giant, Hagrid. This letter pretty much takes Harry from his Muggle-ridden (if you aren't a wizard, then you are called a muggle) existence and transports him into a magical world surrounded by wizards, a snowy caged owl, a phoenix-feather wand and jellybeans that come in flavors one can only imagine from the good (strawberry) to the bad (sardine). And with all of this comes the revelation that Harry is also a wizard.
In the Wizard world Harry is treated as anything but ordinary for he is quite special, because he is famous for having survived when Voldemort did indeed kill his parents. Although he was left with a scar on his forehead from very early encounter in his life--A Lightening Bolt, which has given him interestingly refined sensibilities so to speak. And thus the adventure, suspense, and humor too begins at Hogwarts (The Famous Wizard School), where Harry begins his formal training to be a wizard.
What is a budget?
According to Kid.Net.Au, a budget is
- a summary of intended expenses along with proposals for how to meet them
- a sum of money allocated for a particular purpose
So then, how do we make a budget and stick to it?
The first thing that we must do to make a budget is we must compare income versus expenses. Believe it or not this is a fairly easy thing to do.
Here is the biggest concept to remember:
When your expenses > (are greater than) your income, this is bad.
But when your expenses < (are less than) your income, this is good.
There are 2 simple things to remember when doing a budget:
- You can’t spend more than you have.
- Money must pay for the budgeted items as soon as possible.
Once we discuss what a budget is, the discussion must turn to the students first formal exposure to budgeting. Some should have had allowances and from this should be familiar with the concept of “saving up,” and still others have had experience grocery shopping with mom or dad and have seen family grocery lists.
Also since this lesson is done early on in the year, I try to get the conversation brought around to back to school and how most kids parents will go shopping for back to school. Let's face it, kids usually are supplied a list with back to school supplies (from school and their teachers), plus they will most likely get a few new pieces of clothing for school too. These supplies and clothes cost money and most parents must budget for them. So when Harry Potter first starts Wizardry School, he too needs supplies and clothing to attend. That is where this budget assignment will begin to take form.
So without further ado the Harry Potter Budget that each kid in the class got handed out to them to work on.
The Actual Budget Lesson
The students were handed two budgeting assignment sheets now. The first assignment sheet (Budget for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) was a detailed list of school supplies for Hogwarts, some of which were required and others were optional. For the second assignment sheet (Budget Cards), each of the students was assigned a fictional name from the roster at Hogwarts School and a different dollar amount for his or her budget. The students then read the assignment sheet in groups and discussed briefly some of the items listed.
First Assignment Sheet:
Budget for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Hogwarts Student ______________
Room and Board (required): $10,000
Three sets of plain work robes (price for set) $1,000
One plain pointed hat $500
One pair of protective gloves (Dragon Hide) $3,000
Or one pair of protective gloves (other) $1,250
One winter cloak, silver fastenings $1,500
Nimbus 2000 $24,000
Comet 260 $18,500
Shooting Star $10,000
Wands (required—only one permitted):
Maple and Phoenix feather 7" $3,700
Ebony and Unicorn Hair 8.5" $2,000
Holly and Phoenix feather 11" $4,000
Oak and Owl Feather 10" $500
Willow and Unicorn Hair 10.25" $1,000
Mahogany and Phoenix Feather 11" $2,500
Caldrons (one required, other optional):
Pewter size 2 $340
Gold size 2 $8,000
Books (all required):
The Standard Book of Spells $2,000
A History of Magic $500
Magical Theory $750
A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration $1,500
One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi $760
Magical Drafts and Potions $1,000
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them $300
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self Protection $4,000
1 set glass phials $1,000
Or 1 set crystal phials $4,500
1 telescope $7,000
1 set brass scales $250
Second Assignment Sheet: The Budget Cards
Hogwarts Student Budget Cards (Each Student Gets One Card and Therefore Budgets for that One Character):
Names and Budget:
Ron Weasley $34,250
Lee Jordan $60,400
Oliver Wood $58,850
Angelina Johnson $44,650
Katie Bell $99,670
Fred Weasley $36,100
George Weasley $36,320
Hermione Granger $76,410
Neville Longbottom $38,340
Seamus Finnigan $61,630
Dean Thomas $46,600
Hanna Abbott $82,230
Susan Bones $67,170
Terry Boot $49,560
Mandy Brocklehurst $53,930
Lavender Brown $64,460
Justin Finch-Fletchley $85,850
Morag MacDougal $69,350
Sally-Ann Perks $42,180
Parvati Patil $78,500
Adrian Pucy $100,000
Draco Malfoy $86,300
Marcus Flint $81,160
Terence Higgs $50,000
Millicent Bulstrode $43,420
Crabbe Goyle $54,120
Blaise Zabini $61,250
Pansy Parkinson $97,530
Lisa Turpin $77,560
Alicia Spinnet $47,530
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Assessing Student's Learning and Summing It Up...
To solve the problem, students have to develop strategies for determining what their individual budgets will accommodate. As the dollar amounts varied, discussions should be centered on strategies they could employ to determine which luxuries they could thus afford. They need to recognize that the required items were mandatory and that the optional items would have to be accommodated separately.
Using the literature of Harry Potter fostered a student-centered activity in which students looked to one each other as experts, not the teacher. Students may use a range of strategies. Some students may use the more efficient method of selecting all the required items first and subtotaling, then subtracting this amount from their budget to find the remainder that could be used for optional items. Others still may want to use a trial-and-error method to select items as they go down the list. Yet still others may select the big optional item first, then listed all the required items next.
Although each student will develop a budget for a different character, the students should be happy to help one another and discuss the problem. They should all be engaged and on task, and discussion should not stray from the context of the problem. This activity should be an authentic experience as the students can imagine that they are Harry’s classmates purchasing the same school supplies he too had purchased in preparation for school.
This lesson should be completed in two days. The first day, I would introduce the topic of budgeting and the actual activity. The second day, the students should complete the actual budgets and then discuss how they went about solving their budgets. In this whole-class discussion that follows the activity, the students should be able to make greater connections to budgeting in the real world.
Grading the assignments could be time-consuming, although I must confess my enthusiasm for Harry Potter should make it a bit more enjoyable. I would use a rubric to grade this assignment and make sure to give some credit on this rubric for the students's completion of the actual project, as well as accuracy.
The use of Harry Potter for completing a budget in the end should create an interest in, as well as an enthusiasm for budgeting with large numbers and an authentic context for problem solving for middle school age students.
About the author:
Janine is a freelance writer and mom of two. She is known for being a certified and licensed professional Math Teacher through NY State and has taught in both the middle and high school levels. You can checkout her profile and more real-life Math articles here.
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© 2012 Janine Huldie