When my bloggy friend Jamie (Miss Math Dork) let me know that she was launching this new link up, which she hopes will be a monthly feature, I just HAD to get involved. It immediately brought to mind a conversation I witnessed between teachers online earlier this summer.

A language arts teacher stated that everyone needed critical thinking and literacy skills, but really unless they are planning to have a career in medicine or as an engineer, our students don't really need science concepts in their lives. I thought to myself... um... WHAAAAA?  Everything we TEACH has a real life connection, and if we aren't even aware of that ourselves, we are really doing our students a disservice.  I have to assume that this was just a rare, off moment for this woman, because honestly, anything else is just TOO scary to consider!  Thankfully, someone else took some time to diplomatically try to set her straight.

I don't teach math.  I'm actually even a little scared of math! That doesn't mean I don't consider it important to life! Every time I struggle to correctly add excursion money I've gathered within the classroom, or to balance my chequing account (about semi-annually), I'm reminded of JUST how important it is. And no, I am not joking and no, I cannot believe I just admitted this in writing!!

So, now for a more fun real life example I've recently experienced... Vacation shopping!

This summer vacation, I went on a cruise for the first time. That meant a LOT was included in the up front costs. Mostly, I bought souvenirs. T-shirts for the kids, blankets, costume and novelty jewellery. (I tried on some of the real bling though! Just didn't splurge on it!)  I had to change percentages to decimals, multiply decimals, and tally in order to keep my overall trip costs in check.

About to have my hand firmly pinned down so I cannot use that paddle to bid!

Of course, this didn't only apply to purchases of items to bring home.  It was also an issue to contend with during shore excursions, when dining off the ship, and well... even when getting a little excited at the art auction!  We had a little bit of a shock when we ordered lunch at a beach restaurant in the Cayman Islands. The prices were listed in dollars and seemed quite inexpensive. Then we learned that we were unaware of the existence of a Cayman Island Dollar, which apparently equals $1.22 USD today. However, being in our bathing suits after a lovely swim excursion, the less-than-favourable exchange rate we were offered (more like 1.35, if I recall properly) was beyond our control.

Me, about to kiss a stingray!
When I looked at items in the duty free shops, I had to remember that the price listed was the actual price.  No tax!! (Loved this part as it meant there was less math for me to do! And I also found it the hardest to get used to once I was back home in Canada. I swear, the next three purchases I made with 13% HST (Harmonized Sales Tax, which is a combination of our old Provincial sales tax and the former federal Goods and Services Tax) attached to them, I told the cashier "That can't be right. Something must have scanned in incorrectly."  Nope. Just paying it forward for my old age security and health care. And of course the odd government initiative that turns into a boondoggle.

I bought a couple of bracelets at the on-board duty free shop. The deal was $25 (USD) for one, buy a second get $5 off that one; so, two for $45 US. Of course, I had to consider the currency conversion between Canadian and American dollars, so that was really $48.73 to me.  But what IF I'd bought the same items listed for those identical prices in Canada? With 13% tax on the the combined price for the two pieces, the amount equals $50.85.
(I have to add, that these bracelets WERE a real bargain because I have a similar one that cost about 6 times that amount two years ago!)

To make informed decisions while travelling, I had to convert percentages to a decimal in order to calculate tax implications. I had to (Jamie - what the heck kind of math is currency conversion??) and I had to keep in mind my total budget, both for particular purchases as well as the vacation experience as a whole - keeping a running total and subtracting amounts as I spent them from what I had "left" rather than return home only to face a depressing credit card bill, should I have over-spent.

Things got even more complicated when we dined with a lovely mother-daughter duo from the Netherlands, and we talked about certain prices in Euros as well. Really though, if you can approximately - or accurately - convert one currency to another, you can do it for any two currencies. It might just involve an extra step if you don't know exactly how two currencies compare to one another (i.e. the percentage difference!)

Here is a freebie in my TPT store with 3 worksheets related to money and currencies for French class. For those of you teaching French in Ontario, check the OERB soon for modules with a financial literacy focus that I had a hand in developing. They are suitable for a blended learning environment in grades 4-8, based on the financial literacy materials available through the OMLTA, but with many links to online videos, games and other tools.

Be sure to check out the other blogs linked up with their real life math examples from our personal experiences.