Time to Stock Up!

My first year teaching was really hard. I mean, it’s hard for everyone, but of course, I didn’t know it at the time. I was lucky, however, to have 2 classes of Algebra I Honors students who were just fabulous. They were funny, bright, and eager to learn. Throughout the first semester, I struggled to challenge them, so over winter break, I came up with a semester-long project for the entire class. I wanted it to be something that was related to real life; something they could actually use in the future that would be authentic. Looking back, I’m not sure how I decided on this – I might have gotten inspiration from my (then-boyfriend) husband or from my dad. I don’t think I came up with it entirely on my own, because I’m not a stock market person and I don’t really know a whole lot about that kind of stuff. But I decided to do an investment project. I knew enough about buying and selling stock that I could give a brief tutorial on the major markets (I think I limited the project to the DOW and NASDAQ…or maybe just even one of those), the company abbreviations, and the other major abbreviations in the paper (including the up and down arrows). Basically, I taught my kids enough that they could muddle their way through the stock section of the Wall Street Journal. Now, back in the day when I did this, I was at a school where we didn’t have a computer lab (or if we did, I certainly didn’t have on-demand access to it), so I signed up for newspapers to be delivered to my classroom a few times a week. Most major cities have agreements with local school districts so teachers can get deliveries for free. Then, I explained to my students that we were going to engage in a semester-long investment project.

I had students put themselves into groups of 2-4 (I think…it may have been 3-4). Then, I gave each group $1000 virtual investment dollars. Students had time to research different companies they were interested in and then they got to choose up to five companies in which to invest their funds in whatever way they saw fit. They logged all their investments (number of shares they bought from which companies, price of shares, etc.). Throughout the semester, they would check the stocks at least once a week and record any profits or losses. They were allowed to buy and sell stocks, but only within their original group of companies (I encouraged students to pick the max of five so they’d have more flexibility throughout the semester). At the end of the semester, they had scores of data and they made different displays and did a presentation on their investments. They also wrote an essay analyzing their findings. It was a LOT of work and it was intense, but my students absolutely LOVED it. And they got SO much out of it! They got real-life exposure to a variety of numerical concepts, including graphing. I had kids that were so into the project they’d check stocks every night and beg me to let them buy or sell outside the set days. I had groups who made well over $10,000 by the end of the semester. It was really cool.

If this sounds like something you and/or your students would be interested in, I have created a basic version of the project. It has all the spreadsheets (complete with formulas, so kids can enter the data electronically and even make their charts in Excel) and other necessary information to begin the project. It would be most convenient if you had regular access to a computer lab so students could check their stocks electronically and get the most up-to-date information, but if you don’t, the newspaper stock section will work just fine.

I did this successfully with 7th and 8th graders, but I am sure it would be a hit with 9th or even 10th graders as well. In fact, if you’re really into the stock market, you could probably do an amped up version of this with an AP Stats class or an Econ (or even AP Econ) class. Plus, it’s a GREAT way to incorporate reading and writing into your math content, which is necessary now, with the Common Core. And your English teachers will love you for it! They might even be willing to do a cross-curricular lesson with the writing portion! Bonus points from Administration on that one!

I hope this intrigues you and you check it out!

stock market project

Oh, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow for the football freebie to celebrate Ohio State’s Big Ten Championship victory! I’ve done ELA freebies for the last few weeks, but tomorrow, you’ll get something for math! Yay!

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