Project Based Learning: Creating a Personal Budget


My students are really into projects where they get to make their own choices, which is one of the major components of a Project-based Learning activity. The “Create a Personal Budget” has been, and always will be, my favorite of these activities. Not only does it incorporate a ton of decimal skills (working with money) that are a big part of the 5th grade standards, but it shows the relationship between decimals and percentages (leading into 6th grade standards).


All of these Math PBLs include a fantastic teacher guide with differentiation and connections to the other subject areas!


The real-life application of this project is even more exciting. Students see how much more income they will have if they choose careers where they attend more college, and they begin to really think about their careers. The project includes some careers that are popular choices with my students, but I allow them to choose others and I use to find the average salary for the careers they choose.

I started a long journey to pay off debt and start saving more money when I first became a teacher, and I found these percentages invaluable for making important decisions on where my money was going. My students use these numbers to guide them through setting up their savings, choosing a house, buying a car, and budgeting for other expenses. It gives them guidelines that keep them realistic when choosing their house and car, which I hope they will remember when they are adults!


Project-based learning in Math gives students so many opportunities to think outside of the classroom. I recently found that Connect Ed has a wonderful video series that would go great with the choosing a career step. I set this up as a center and it got my students excited about choosing careers. Many of the careers featured weren’t on our initial list, so we were able to learn a lot about researching jobs and comparing averages to starting pay.

Every year we do this project, I get 30 completely different perspectives on it. This year two of my boys didn’t have enough money for a house, and they didn’t want to live in an apartment, so they came up with an idea to become roomates! We came together as a class and figured out how they would split the rent and the utilities, and it was actually less for them than renting an apartment. This happens so much in real life, and I had never thought about it being an option in the project!

Are you interested in using this PBL in your classroom? It comes with vocabulary that is aligned to TEKS Financial Literacy Standards, as well as great math practice. This is a great project to use to practice decimal operations, percentages, and critical thinking skills. A challenge activity is also included for calculating income tax. Pick it up today by itself or in a pack with other Math PBL!