Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Budgets, Taxes, and Deficits


Recently I read this post on the Voice of America Web site:

Students Debate US Budget Through Online Game

Budget Hero, mentioned in the story above, is an online political/economic simulation that would be a great resource for any high school Econ, Civics, PoliSci, or Social Studies classroom.  It’s also a great example of how kids can use simulations and games to practice solving real-world problems.

About a year ago, the New York Times published an article (“O.K., You Fix the Budget,” November 13, 2010) and a related Web site on a similar topic. There is also a link to various essays and research on the topic, so students can read about many aspects of the budget debate to help inform their decisions. On the simulation Web site, students check a series of boxes next to possible solutions and see how their decisions affect the overall US economy, both in the short- and long-term views.


There are several other free online resources that would offer students similar experiences.  Here are just a few that I’ve blogged about in the past. These would all be great for high school & perhaps even upper middle school social studies or life skills classes.


What We Pay For breaks down the federal budget into individual fund items that are easier to understand, using current budget figures. Students can also input annual income features and find out exactly how much taxes one would pay and where each dollar and cent would go in the budget. The site really takes the abstract concept of taxation and makes it concrete for kids.



Where Did My Tax Dollars Go? is a similar site that displays information in pie-chart format. That visual representation is a nice way to help visualize & understand how the government divides up tax revenue to provide goods and services to citizens.



SPENT takes budgets to a very personal level for a lot of kids and families. The premise of the site is simple: You’ve lost your job, exhausted all savings, and have $1000 left to get you through the month. How will you spend it? Kids must make very real and difficult decisions about their personal & family life, and how those decisions lead one down different paths in life.


Images used in this post are screenshots from their respective Web sites. Each image is hyperlinked back to its source – click the images to visit the sites.

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