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Fun with Budgets



Grade Levels: 3-5
This activity would be most effective if delivered in three 45 minute to one hour sessions.

In preparation for the activity, watch CYBERCHASE episode #401,"Balancing Act." Cue the episode to the starting point, which is where you see the cyborg Dodi in the air and you hear Digit say, "I love show business!"

Make sure you have enough copies of the Family Day Budget Organizer for each student.

Familiarize yourself with the Web sites the students will use in the activity and bookmark them on each computer. If using this activity outside of the New York metropolitan area, you may want to find local attractions similar to those listed below:

Splish Splash: located on Long Island, this is a water park featuring water rides, a wave pool, and an area where families can picnic.

The New York Aquarium: located near the ocean at Coney Island, this aquarium has live exhibits indoors and outdoors.

The Bronx Zoo: this zoological park has live animal exhibits indoors and outdoors, and food can be purchased at the zoo's restaurants. and rates/bzspringrates

Rye Playland: this amusement park is free, and ticket booklets are purchased for rides. There is also a picnic area, beach and pool.

Students will need:
  • Paper and pencils or pens
  • Optional: calculator for each group
Group leader will need:
  • TV and VCR and a copy of the Cyberchase episode #401,
  • Balancing Act, or the ability to project the digitized clips on a TV or projector
  • Computers with Internet access. If there are not enough computers for students to be broken into small groups of two or three, the activity can be done in larger groups or as a class.
  • Copies of the Cyberchase Balancing Act Summary [LINK TO popup window] sheet for each student. A piece of chart paper with the questions from the sheet written on it.
  • Attraction list for each group
  • Copies of the Family Day Budget Organizer [LINK TO popup window] for each student
  • Chart paper and markers, or blackboard and chalk
Academic Goals:
Students will:
  • know the definition of budget and describe categories that make up a budget
  • calculate budgets and estimate to make budget adjustments
  • apply mathematics to real-world settings to solve problems
  • use two and three digit addition and/or multiplication abilities (or utilize calculator skills if calculators are used)
Social Goals:
Students will:
  • consider together ways to utilize a fixed amount of money
  • make a group decision as to which attractions to visit
  • assist one another with addition and multiplication problems

Introductory Activity: (20-30 minutes)
  1. Ask the students, "If I gave you each $20.00, would you be able to buy whatever you wanted?" and have them explain why or why not. Presumably, they will consider that many things they want cost more than this amount. Next, ask students to write down on a piece of paper what items they could buy with $20.00. Write some student suggestions on the chart paper or blackboard. Ask the students how many combinations of the items listed could be purchased for $20.00. They may come up with a variety of guesses.

  2. Write the word 'budget' on the chart paper or blackboard. Ask students if they can define the word. List their responses and discuss their ideas. If no one has defined it correctly, tell students that a budget is a plan to spend a fixed amount of money. This is what they just did when deciding how to spend $20.00. Write the definition on the board next to the word.

Activity 1: (50 minutes)

  1. Tell the students that they will be watching a few segments of a Cyberchase episode called "Balancing Act." Ask how many students are familiar with this program. Explain that in the episode the Cyber Squad is trying to help Shari Spotter, a student at the Frogsnorts School for Sorcerers, plan a budget to make a film about the school. Sherry has a budget of $600.00 and only four days to complete the film. Hacker complicates matters by changing headmaster Stumblesnore into a lizard and demanding that the crew include a scene about him and his takeover of Cyberspace. The squad must restore Stumblesnore to power, complete the film, and stop Hacker's dastardly plans.

  2. [INSERT CLIP 1 TO THE RIGHT] As they watch the first clip, ask students to determine how much the Cyberchase squad spent on day #1 and how much money they have left. If you can't show the clip from the Web, start the tape at the scene where Dodi is in the air and Digit says, "I love show business!" Pause the tape when you hear Shari say, "The professor said so." Ask students how much the Cybersquad spent the first day and how much they have left. (The kids spent $300 the first day, and they have $300 left). Ask the students if their spending may present a problem. (They should realize that they already spent half of their budget the first day). Ask if the kids can get more money. (The professor said Shari could only have $600). Ask students what they think the Cybersquad will do next. List their responses on the board.

  3. [INSERT CLIP 2 TO THE RIGHT] As they watch the next clip, ask the students to determine what Jackie says is needed to solve the problem. If you can't show the clip from the Web, play the tape from the previous pause point and stop the video when Matt says, "Huh, huh?" Ask students what Jackie says they need to do to solve the problem. (A plan to spend the money over the next three days). Ask them what the plan is. (To spend $100 a day for the next three days). Ask "What is a plan to spend money is called again?" (a budget). Ask students what they think the kids should include in their budget. Write their responses on the board. Answers will vary and may include: money to spend, items to buy, other expenses, totals.

  4. [INSERT CLIP 3 TO THE RIGHT] If you can't show the next clip from the Web, fast forward the tape to the scene where Jackie is standing at the table with Inez and Digit and Jackie says, "We need to get organized." As they watch this segment, ask students to identify what categories Jackie included in the film's daily budget. (Depending on the grade level, it could be helpful to make sure students understand the meaning of the word 'category' before starting the video.) Play the video and pause when Jackie says, "We have to decide where the rest is not going to go." Ask students what categories Jackie included? (Boards or crew, food, and film stuff).

  5. [INSERT CLIP 4 TO THE RIGHT] As they watch the next segment, ask students to determine how much money the crew budgeted for each category. If you can't show the clip from the Web, play the tape from the previous pause point and stop when Jackie says, "Fill in day three and day four the same way, Digit." Ask for student responses and write the answers on the blackboard (Boards - $60, Food - $10, Film stuff - $30). Ask students if their budget was the same or different each day. (No, it was the same for the remaining three days). Ask students what the biggest change the kids made after day #1 to help meet the new budget. (They hired 14 fewer crewmembers).

  6. [INSERT CLIP 5 TO THE RIGHT] If you can't show the next clip from the Web , fast forward to the scene where Shari makes a rainbow bridge with her wand, and Dodi says, "Everything's perfect." As they watch, ask students to determine how much the crew spent on filming on day #2. Play the video and stop when Jackie says, "All right." Ask how much they spent on the second day ($96), and ask if the daily budget was over or under and why? (Under, because they used two less film cartridges, which saved them $4). Ask students what the Cybersquad will do with the extra four dollars. (use it for unexpected expenses). Ask the students what unexpected expenses might come up in the future. (Possible responses: increases in price, they may need more film or crew, damage).

  7. [INSERT CLIP 6 TO THE RIGHT] If you can't show the video clip from the Web , fast forward to the scene where Jackie is reading a list and says, "Ok guys, listen up." As they watch the next segment, ask students to determine how much the crew spent filming on day #3. Play the clip and stop when Matt says, "Your budget ideas just might save us." Ask how much they spent on day 3 ($102) and if the budget was over or under and why. (Over, because Digit used one more film cartridge, costing $2.) Ask how the crew will pay for the extra film. (out of the extra $4 from day #2).

  8. [INSERT CLIP 7 TO THE RIGHT] Fill students in on the story by explaining that Hacker enters with Stumblesnore, who's been turned into a lizard on a leash, and demands that the kids shoot an extra scene of him as headmaster of cyberspace. If you can't show the clip from the Web, fast forward to the scene where Inez is upside down and Jackie says, "We got to figure out how to finish our movie and save the professor." As they watch, ask students to determine how Hacker's demand for an extra scene changes day #4's budget. Play the clip and stop when Digit is in a giant's hand saying, "The things I have to do to save cyberspace!" Solicit student responses and write them on board. (boards decreased to $50, food stayed at $10, film increased to $40) Ask if the crew had the extra money. (Yes, $2). Ask them what they did with it. (Dodi and Digit went to buy an antidote for Stumblesnore.) Ask if Digit was successful. (Yes, but he had to clean the pig pen).

  9. As a summary to the previous segments, pass out the sheet "Cyberchase Balancing Act Summary" [LINK TO popup window] and have students fill in their responses to the questions. Collect the sheets and tell the students they will go over them together at the beginning of the next session

Answers to the questions on the sheet are:
  1. What problem did the Cyber crew have in making the film, besides Hacker? They had four days to make a movie and a set amount, and they spent half the first day, so they had to watch how they spent the other half.
  2. How did they solve the problem? They divided the remaining money by three to calculate how much they could spend each day. Next, they listed the expenses that would have each day.
  3. What did they call the plan of their expenses? A budget.
  4. Did they spend the allowable amount each day? No, some days they were over, some days they were under.
  5. How could they afford days they overspent? They saved from days they under spent.
  6. Do you think using a budget in your life would be a good or bad thing? Why or why not? If so, because they help you manage your money by paying your expenses and preparing for unexpected ones.

Activity 2: (45 minutes - one hour)
  1. Go over the Cyberchase Balancing Act Summary sheet with the students as a review. Post the questions from the sheet on the wall as you go over the answers aloud with the students.

  2. [INSERT CLIP 8 HERE] Tell the students they're going to watch another segment that uses what they learned about budgets. Begin the video with the "For Real" segment where Harry is polishing his sneakers. Ask students to pay attention so they can name budget items and the amounts that Harry budgeted for his date with Jenna. Play the video and pause when Harry and his cousin walk out the door. (If you are showing the clip from the Web, pause the video by clicking on the button to the left with the two parallel vertical lines.)

    Write the student responses on the board: flowers $10, chocolate $8, dinner $20x2=$40, dessert $7x2=$14, tax and tip $12, taxi round trip $16. Ask students what Harry's total budget is. ($100) Ask them what unexpected expense Harry had. (his cousin invited himself to the restaurant, and his budget was for two people, not three!). Ask students how Harry can change his expenses to stay within budget. (He could split the dinner allowance of $20 and allow $10 for himself and his cousin. Also, the desert cost would be split.) Ask students to see if their predictions were correct when they watch the next segment.

    Play the video until after Harry orders the grilled cheese sandwich. Ask the students "What did Harry do?" (ordered a grilled cheese sandwich). Ask the students how much the sandwich cost and why he had to order it? ($5, because his cousin ordered a steak for $25, and Jenna's order was $10, and he only had $5 left out of the $40 budgeted for the main course). Refer to Harry's budget that you've written on the blackboard to help students with problem solving as they continue through the segment.

    Ask the students what else Harry's cousin could have done. (ordered a less expensive dish so Harry could have ordered something more expensive - or not come on the date!). Have the students consider that Harry also could have given his cousin a budget before ordering. If the cousin had not been there, how much money would Harry have had to order his main course to stay on budget? ($30).

    Tell the students to pay attention to see why Harry orders the rice pudding. Play the video and pause when Harry is staring at the camera with a mad expression. Get student responses to the question (because Jenna's dessert was $10, he only had $4 left out of his $14 budget for dessert). Ask the students why his cousin did not order anything. (Harry told him that if he ordered dessert he wouldn't have enough money).

    Finally, ask students to find out how much the cab ride cost in the last segment. Play the video and stop when Harry and Jenna are riding away in the cab. How much did it cost and did Harry stay on budget? (It cost $8 and yes, he stayed on budget.).

  3. Next, tell the students that it is their turn to work with budgets in another real life situation. Depending on how many computers are available, divide students into the smallest size groups possible. Tell them they have each won $100 to plan a family trip to an attraction of their choice: SplishSplash Water Park, The New York Aquarium, The Bronx Zoo, or Rye Playland. (Feel free to substitute these with other local attractions, but be sure each attraction has a Web site with information to help visitors plan a trip.) Give each group a list of the Web sites and have them log on to each for approximately five minutes (time can be adjusted depending on time remaining) to familiarize themselves with the attraction in order to make an informed choice. By the end of the activity, have each group decide where they plan to take their "trip" and have them circle the Web site on their list. Collect the sheets.
Activity 3: (45 minutes - one hour)

  1. Distribute the sheets with the Web sites back to each group and review which attractions the groups have chosen. Pass out the Family Day Budget Organizer [LINK TO popup window] and tell students to write down the names and ages of their family members, including themselves. Each child can take up to seven family members.

  2. Tell students that they must determine if $100 will be enough for their trip. To do so, they need to find out information about the attraction. Write on the board the three categories: 1) cost of admission - remind students that this may vary depending on age, 2) cost of parking, 3) cost of food for each family member - remind them that if they go to the picnic area they could be bringing food from home. If there is no picnic area, have them include $7 per person for food.

  3. Have students go to their chosen Web site and complete the information in the appropriate column on the organizer for the three categories.

  4. When students have completed the information, have them add the cost of admission for family members. Remind them that they can do so by using multiplication or addition. (If you want, you may give each group a calculator to use). Next, have them add this amount to the cost of parking and food. Then enter the total in the "Total Cost" row of the budget. Stronger math students can assist peers who are having more difficulty calculating costs. Circulate to make sure students are doing the task correctly.

  5. Ask which students have gone over their $100 budget. Those who have will need to subtract $100 from their total cost and put it in the "Amount Over Budget" box. Then, ask which students are under budget, and have them subtract their total cost from $100 and put the total in the "Amount Under Budget" box. Continue to encourage peer support in making calculations.

  6. After students have completed the organizer, ask them for examples of trips that were over budget and have them explain to the large group why this was the case. See how many of the students would be able to take their families to the various attractions. Ask students why it is important to create a budget when you are planning to spend money (You may or may not be able to afford what you want or need to do).


This AFTERSCHOOL EXCHANGE activity was created by Julie Spiegel Ph.D., Educational Specialist at The Point CDC, based on the CYBERCHASE episode "A Day at the Spa" and the Thirteen NTTI lesson plan"

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