Unit 3: Balancing Computation and Conceptual Understanding


Objective: Participants will demonstrate the ability to design a lesson plan that meets learning standards and uses online calculators.

  1. You will examine exponential function curriculum materials.
  2. You will compare the costs and benefits of using online calculators with students.

Tech Check:

  • Add the Unit 3 Google Doc to your Google Drive. This is where you will collect your knowledge from Unit 3.
  • Audio capability is required.
  • TI-84 Plus graphing calculator (or equivalent) is required.

Can you integrate personal finance concepts into eMathInstruction units?

One of the most challenging parts of being an educator is responding to changing standards in a timely, efficient, and innovative manner. EMathInstruction itself was built in response such change and seeks to move math education into the 21st century with a responsive e-textbook, scaffold-ed exercises, discussion prompts, and updated resources added as needed. "They are a structure that a classroom teacher can use to know that they are covering state standards, while at the same time ensuring a high degree of mathematical discussion, development and exploration. Homeworks are included with each lesson that further strengthen essential skills and enduring knowledge" (Weiler, 2018).

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When learning standards are so robust, as they are in Algebra 2, and school districts provide curriculum materials, many classroom teachers fall into a pattern of lesson-homework-lesson-homework-etc.-etc.-exam. However, such materials are rarely intended to be utilized in this way. They are simply meant to serve as a structure off of which to plan and build off of in ways that will grow students' mathematical abilities. "Some might feel that these lessons take freedom away from a teacher or stifle their creativity. At eMathInstruction we believe it is entirely the opposite. These lessons comprise approximately 60% of the school year. In fact, they give teachers the breathing room to be creative by taking care of the day to day task of lesson creation. We give teachers the time to create quality activities, reviews, and assessments (Weiler, 2018).

So, yes! You can integrate personal finance concepts into provided curriculum materials! Next, you will look at an example of how this can be done.

How can media extend the application of exponential functions?

This lesson will be Day 7 in an Algebra 2 unit named Exponential Functions. Content prior to this lesson includes exponential function basics, finding equations of exponentials, the method of common bases, and exponential modeling with percent growth and decay. This content progression is loosely based on Unit 4 of Common Core Algebra 2 from eMathInstruction.

In the lesson prior to this one, students will have done scenario problems “modeling a variety of real word phenomena that either increase or decrease by fixed rate percentages over given units of time” (Weiler, 2018). In financial applications, this type of growth is called simple interest.

This sample lesson includes one simple interest calculation for comparisons’ sake, and then introduces compound interest in the context of loan principals and savings account balances. The focus is on conceptual level understanding of ‘interest on interest’ and the associated vocabulary terms. The following lesson will more thoroughly examine the compound interest formula that is briefly mentioned in the video which will bring learners to an abstract level of understanding.

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For Consideration Video 1 (Ben) Video 2 (Paul)
Parallels current teaching methods
Extends current teaching methods

The sample lesson plan utilizes the medium of video to help students learn about loans and interest rates. Watch the two videos used in the lesson and complete the graphic organizer in your Unit 3 Google Doc #1.

Sample Lesson: How fast does compound interest compound?

Now, let's take a look at this lesson plan! You have watched the two videos used in the lesson and formed your own opinion on them and ideas on how they might be used in the classroom. In reading this lesson plan, you will examine how the author of this mini-course chose to use the media to develop an independent-learning experience for 11th grade students.

As you read, consider how this lesson builds personal finance knowledge related to:

  1. New vocabulary terms
  2. Supported but independent learning
  3. Application to life after high school

Read the sample lesson plan: File:Cartie.LessonPlanSample.ExponentialFunctions.pdf

When you are finished reading, add your ideas to your Unit 3 Google Doc #2.

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Under Bloom’s taxonomy, this watching and computing lesson will elevate students’ learning from comprehension (summarize, define) to analysis (calculate yearly growth) to synthesis (explain in writing). When written out in such a progression, the multiple layers of understanding this lesson demands are highlighted; however, when you consider any financial calculation, students must develop their terminology-to-calculation process skills to accurately utilize all financial formulas.

Your Turn to Lesson Plan!

Can you design a lesson plan that meets learning standards and uses online calculators?


Create a lesson plan that allows students to explore the personal finance topics of student loans, car loans, and/or credit card payments. Write this lesson to include a combination of graphing calculator and online calculators. Assume your lesson will be taught after the content of the sample lesson plan.

  • Look back at the sample lesson plan for guidance and be sure to include the following elements: title, goals, objective, target population, curriculum alignment, lesson description (introduction, instructional procedures, closure), supplemental materials or links, assessment of students, and evaluation of the lesson.
  • Use the outline provided in your Unit 3 Google Doc #3 to guide your development.
  • Consider the ease-of-use, terminology, functionality, and source when selecting online calculators.

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What are the costs and benefits of using an online calculator with students verses using only a graphing calculator? Use the graphic organizer in your Unit 3 Google Doc #4 to consider this comparison.

Continue on to Unit 4: Designing Instruction with Real-World Applications.
Return to Mini-course Main Page.