A young person turns eighteen and heads off to college or perhaps starts working. He is blasted with offers of easy credit. Low introductory rates, free t-shirts and water bottles, and access to quick cash entice him to sign up. Then, he goes shopping. Without a basic understanding of how credit works, he can get thousands into debt before he even knows what hit him!

Of course, credit is a complicated topic. This lesson focuses on the basics of borrowing with a credit card including interest rates, monthly compounding intervals, and different payback options. By comparing a few different scenarios, students will understand how much an item can really end up costing when it's purchased with a credit card.

Students will

Compare the consequences of not paying balances on two cards with different APRs

Observe the effect of adding monthly compounding to the model

Compare the effect of paying the minimum versus paying more in how much interest is paid

Compare the effect of paying the minimum versus paying more in how long it takes to pay off the balance

Before you begin

Students should be able to calculate a percent increase of r% by multiplying by 1 + r. Familiarity with expressing percent growth as an exponential function is helpful, but not assumed. When calculating successive balances after payments are made, students will use either their calculators or spreadsheets to carry out a recursive process. If they aren't familiar with these techniques, you will need to demonstrate.

What's an acceptable dating range? Students use linear equations and linear inequalities to examine the May-December romance, and ask whether the Half Plus Seven rule of thumb is a good one.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Creating Equations (CED), Expressions and Equations (EE), Functions (F), Interpreting Functions (IF), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI)

Do social networks like Facebook make us more connected? Students create a quadratic function to model the number of possible connections as a network grows, and consider the consequences of relying on Facebook for news and information.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Creating Equations (CED), Interpreting Functions (IF)

How much should people pay for donuts? Students use linear, rational, and piecewise functions to describe the total and average costs of an order at Carpe Donut.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Functions (IF)

What's the ideal size for a soda can? Students use the formulas for surface area and volume of a cylinder to design different cans, calculate their cost of production, and find the can that uses the least material to contain a standard 12 ounces of liquid.

How has the human population changed over time? Students build an exponential model for population growth, and use it to make predictions about the future of our planet.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Functions (IF), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE)

How far away from the TV should you sit? Students use right triangle trigonometry and a rational function to explore the percent of your visual field that is occupied by the area of a television.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Creating Equations (CED), Interpreting Functions (IF), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI), Similarity, Right Triangles, and Trigonometry (SRT)

How can you make money in a pyramid scheme? Students learn about how pyramid schemes work (and how they fail), and use geometric sequences to model the exponential growth of a pyramid scheme over time.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE), Seeing Structure in Expressions (SSE)

Why hasn't everyone already died of a contagion? And, if vampires exist, shouldn't we all be sucking blood by now? Students model the exponential growth of a contagion and use logarithms and finite geometric series to determine the time needed for a disease to infect the entire population. They'll also informally prove that vampires can't be real.

Topic:
Creating Equations (CED), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE), Seeing Structure in Expressions (SSE)

Could Inspector Javert have survived the fall? Students use quadratic models to determine how high the bridge was in Les Misérables, and explore the maximum height from which someone can safely jump.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Creating Equations (CED), Interpreting Functions (IF)

How much can you trust your memory? Students construct and compare linear and exponential models to explore how much a memory degrades each time it's remembered.

Topic:
Interpreting Functions (IF), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE)

How much should you bid in an auction? Students use probability, expected value, and polynomial functions to develop a profit-maximizing bidding strategy.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Functions (IF)

How have video game console speeds changed over time? Students write an exponential function based on the Atari 2600 and Moore's Law, and see whether the model was correct for subsequent video game consoles.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data (ID), Interpreting Functions (IF), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE)

How has the iPod depreciated over time? Students compare linear and exponential decay, as well as explore how various products have depreciated and what might account for those differences.

How can we improve our calendar? Students examine some other ways to keep track of dates, and use number sense and function concepts to convert between different calendars.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Functions (F), Interpreting Functions (IF)

What’s the best strategy for creating a March Madness bracket? Students use probability to discover that it’s basically impossible to correctly predict every game in the tournament. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop people from trying.

Topic:
Conditional Probability and the Rules of Probability (CP), Creating Equations (CED), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE)

In which Major League Baseball stadium is it hardest to hit a home run? Students find the roots and maxima of quadratic functions to model the trajectory of a potential home-run ball.

Topic:
Creating Equations (CED), Interpreting Functions (IF), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI)

How much Tylenol can you safely take? Students use exponential functions and logarithms to explore the risks of acetaminophen toxicity, and discuss what they think drug manufacturers should do to make sure people use their products safely.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Functions (IF), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE), Seeing Structure in Expressions (SSE)

How has the urban population changed over time, and will we all eventually live in cities? Students use recursive rules along with linear and exponential models to explore how America's urban areas have been growing over the last 200 years.

Topic:
Interpreting Functions (IF), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI)

When should NFL teams go for it on fourth down? Students use quadratic functions to develop a model of expected points. They then apply this model to determine when teams should punt the ball, and more importantly, when they shouldn’t.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Functions (IF), Using Probability to Make Decisions (MD)

How much should Nintendo charge for the Wii U? Students use linear functions to explore demand for the Wii U console and Nintendo's per-unit profit from each sale. They use those functions to create a quadratic model for Nintendo's total profit and determine the profit-maximizing price for the console.

Topic:
Creating Equations (CED), Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Functions (IF), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI)

Which size pizza should you order? Students apply the area of a circle formula to write linear and quadratic formulas that measure how much of a pizza is actually pizza, and how much is crust.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Creating Equations (CED), Interpreting Functions (IF), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI)

How do noise-canceling headphones work? In this lesson, students use transformations of trigonometric functions to explore how sound waves can interfere with one another, and how noise-canceling headphones use incoming sounds to figure out how to produce that sweet, sweet silence.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Functions (IF)

How much should companies pay their employees? Students graph and solve systems of linear equations in order to examine the effects of wage levels on labor and consumer markets, and they discuss the possible pros and cons of increasing the minimum wage.

Topic:
Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE), Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities (REI)

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Mathalicious lessons provide teachers with an opportunity to teach standards-based math through real-world topics that students care about.

How have video game console speeds changed over time? Students write an exponential function based on the Atari 2600 and Moore's Law, and see whether the model was correct for subsequent video game consoles.

Topic:
Building Functions (BF), Interpreting Categorical and Quantitative Data (ID), Interpreting Functions (IF), Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential Models (LE)