ALEX Lesson Plan


What's The Real Cost of That Car?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Pam McClendon
System: Jefferson County
School: Hueytown High School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 24803


What's The Real Cost of That Car?


This is a Commerce and Information Technology lesson plan. A project requiring research, critical thinking and complex decision-making about factoring all the costs of purchasing a large ticket item... a car.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
BMA (9-12) Business Technology Applications - Advanced
3. Design spreadsheets for personal and business use.
  • Utilizing wizards and templates to create spreadsheets
  • BMA (9-12) Business Technology Applications - Advanced
    4. Apply mathematical, statistical, and logical functions to solve problems using spreadsheets.
    MA2015 (9-12) Algebra
    10. Understand that polynomials form a system analogous to the integers; namely, they are closed under the operations of addition, subtraction, and multiplication; add, subtract, and multiply polynomials. [A-APR1]
    MA2015 (9-12) Algebra
    41. Represent data with plots on the real number line (dot plots, histograms, and box plots). [S-ID1]
    MA2015 (9-12) Algebraic Connections
    5. Determine approximate rates of change of nonlinear relationships from graphical and numerical data. (Alabama)
    a. Create graphical representations from tables, equations, or classroom-generated data to model consumer costs and to predict future outcomes. (Alabama)
    MA2015 (9-12) Algebraic Connections
    6. Use the extreme value of a given quadratic function to solve applied problems. (Alabama)
    Example: Determine the selling price needed to maximize profit.
    MA2015 (9-12) Algebraic Connections
    7. Use analytical, numerical, and graphical methods to make financial and economic decisions, including those involving banking and investments, insurance, personal budgets, credit purchases, recreation, and deceptive and fraudulent pricing and advertising. (Alabama)
    Examples: Determine the best choice of certificates of deposit, savings accounts, checking accounts, or loans. Compare the costs of fixed- or variable-rate mortgage loans. Compare costs associated with various credit cards. Determine the best cellular telephone plan for a budget.
    a. Create, manually or with technological tools, graphs and tables related to personal finance and economics. (Alabama)
    Example: Use spreadsheets to create an amortization table for a mortgage loan or a circle graph for a personal budget.
    MA2015 (9-12) Discrete Mathematics
    9. Determine a minimum project time using algorithms to schedule tasks in order, including critical path analysis, the list-processing algorithm, and student-created algorithms. (Alabama)

    Local/National Standards:

    Jump Start Standard 1: Take responsibility for personal financial decisions.
    Jump Start Standard 4: Make financial decisions by systematically considering alternatives and consequences.

    Primary Learning Objective(s):

    Students will:
    1. Use the decision-making process in this simulated car purchasing activity.

    Additional Learning Objective(s):

    Students will: 1. Determine how much must be saved each month for the down payment (or the entire car if it is to be purchased with cash.)
    2. Determine total cost of car - down payment, loan fees, loan repayment.

     Preparation Information 

    Total Duration:

    Greater than 120 Minutes

    Materials and Resources:

    "Real Cost of That Car" Spreadsheet (Attached Excel Template)
    Personal Finance for the Economics Classroom Unit 2, JumpStart
    Classified section of newspaper, Internet site for car sales, or auto magazine, Cars Direct, Drivers Way

    Technology Resources Needed:

    Computer Lab
    Digital Projector
    Spreadsheet Software


    1. Students must know how to use basic functions in selected spreadsheet software.
    2. Students must be able to demonstrate proficient Internet research skills.

    1.)Give Lesson Pre Test to assess the range of knowledge students may already have. (see attachments) (Approx. 20 minutes)

    2.)With the class, brainstorm "all the factors to consider" when buying a car. Divide the ideas into logical categories. For example, body styles, frequency of repair, safety rating, condition, and fuel efficiency. Also, demonstrate how to determine a down payment amount based on the vehicle cost (new vs used) and personal circumstance. Use The Simple Dollar as a guided resource. Assign individual students or teams to research each category. Internet sites to suggest:
    Allow the groups time to share their information and enter data onto their student handout (see attachments).
    (Approx. 40 minutes)

    3.)Once the students have collected their base-line data, they will use the information to select a car. In this stage students must complete the "Student Car Buying Guide"(see attachements). Internet sites to suggest:
    Drivers Way
    Cars Direct
    (Approx 30 minutes)

    4.)Use a digital projector and show the students how to retrieve "The Real Cost of That Car" template (see attachment) from shared network folder. Have the students save the file to their personal computers. Have the students click on sheet 1 and complete "Scenario 1" as a class. Students will determine the blank areas in the "The Real Cost of That Car" spreadsheet by entering correct formulas and financial functions. In the guided lesson monitor students to insure they are able to use selected spreadsheet software financial functions and formulas to calculate costs correctly. The answers will vary as it is based upon their chosen car.
    (Approx. 40 minutes)

    5.)Have the students complete the final two scenarios independently. Monitor student progress and assist as needed. They should be able to estimate a reasonable down payment and calculate all other formulas. When the students have completed the assignment have them print and answer the reflection questions on their "Student Car Buying Guide" and discuss as a class or as an online discussion EduBlog.
    (Approx. 40 minutes)

    6.)Give Lesson Post Test to assess retention. (see attachments) (Approx. 20 minutes)

    **Some files will display in a new window. Others will prompt you to download.

    Assessment Strategies

    Buying A Car Grading Rubric


    These students may be used as peer tutors. Allow these students to create a loan amortization based on the finished spreadsheet.


    1. Preteach spreadsheet vocabulary and familiarize students with selected software.
    2. Reteach the lesson as a class if the students display difficulty in demonstrating proficiency in completing the project.

    Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

    Presentation of Material Environment
    Time Demands Materials
    Attention Using Groups and Peers
    Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
    Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.