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Math Lecture Notes
Percent Project Ideas

The math questions on our homework and tests are all structured as questions with a correct answer.

However, many real-life issues are too subjective to have one correct answer. You will partially explore four of these, in a group, during class.

Towards the end of the term pick your favorite and finish researching the problem to solve it. Ideally your project will be about something practical and important to you! An important part of this project is to cite your sources. If your project involves prices, where did you get them? If your project involves nutritional information, where did you get that? Etc.

Then present your finished project to the class.

Please refer to the project rubric for information about how you will be graded.

8. Meal Planning

Plan and price a complete meal for dozens of people.

Pick a menu of three or four dishes. Consider yield percent, and make a shopping list. Price the shopping list. Analyze the meal's cost. Use either restaurant pricing method to estimate how much the meal would cost at a restaurant. Estimate the calories for each item, as protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Finally, compare your results with a similar meal at an actual restaurant or catering company.

9. Charitable Giving

Pick one type of charitable activity. (Microfinance, disaster relief, medical aid, environmental work, etc.)

Use the website Charity Navigator to compare four or more non-profit organizations that do that type of activity.

Which non-profit organization was the best to financially support to ensure your dollars help the world as much as possible? What information did you use to reach that conclusion?

10. Construction at Home

Plan and complete a construction project involving a scale diagram. In past terms students have planned gardens, built trailers, and refurbished a deck.

Describe the initial layout you have to work with, as well as the purpose and goals of the construction. Detail the preparations that need to be made to prepare the materials and/or land. Draw a scale drawing of the layout you wish to create, with all the features labeled. Create a shopping list to budget your expenses.

Finally, do the work and include before and after photographs of the area.

11. Human Progress

Despite what we might hear about on the news, life is improving for almost everyone everywhere. The website Human Progress measures many examples.

(Similarly, there is a climate change crisis, but there is still time to avoid disaster. We are currently on the "optimistic" scenario pictured in the famous XKCD cartoon.)

For this project, look at the Human Progress website and then report to the class three or four ways that you were surprised about how much life is improving. Use numbers and charts appropriately to make your explanation convincing, as if you were speaking to an audience of skeptics.

12. America's Entitlement Crisis

Economists are very worried about the upcoming Entitlement Crisis as the government's promised expendatures on Medicare, Social Security, and Federal pensions increase in the future. Here is a graph showing the growth of these "mandatory programs".

entitlement crisis graph 1

Most economists agree about a few predictions. Medicare has reserves that will run out in about 2028, and its trust fund to pay for hospital care will run out in 2029. Social Security will never go completely bankrupt, but after 2030 recipients should not expect to get more than 70% of what is currently promised.

The growth of retirement-aged people can be predicted using census data.

entitlement crisis graph 2

There is less agreement about other predictions. How rapidly is the ratio of tax-paying workers to retirees shrinking? Will Social Security see changes to its retirement age as well as its payments? How big is the Federal pension problem? In what ways will the Entitlement Crisis eventually be fixed—cuts to these mandatory programs, increased revenues, or cuts to discretionary progams? What choices are people making to prepare family members for the Entitlement Crisis?

For this project, do online research about the Entitlement Crisis and report your findings. Be sure to cite your sources carefully. How big is the Entitlement Crisis? Find one or more graphs predicting the future expense of these "mandatory programs" and explain them. Find the most reliable answers for the other questions asked above, and discuss the issues and consensus opinions.

13. Individual Development Accounts

After earning a degree at community college, many people move on to starting a business or doing continuing education. However, the types of government financial aid used by most college students usually does not help with those. Time to explore the new option!

Learn about Individual Development Accounts, especially the local ones provided by the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation and Goodwill. (Nationally, most are provided by the Department of Health and Human Services.)

Design a real or ficticious plan that uses an IDA to help pay for continuing education, home ownership, or starting a business.

Also learn about WeFinance, which uses crowd-funding to help loans happen. These are normal loans, which the borrower pays back.

A different source of money is LCC's own LaneFunder. This is a fundraising program: the contributions are donations instead of loans.

Note: mixing types of financial assistance might mess up student financial aid and other Federal loans—speak with an expert in the Financial Aid department before starting anything in real life!

14. Investment Tracking

Set some goals about how to invest your savings. Pick a few stocks, bonds, or funds and pretend to invest them. Track the value of these investments for six weeks.

Write a report about if the investments' performance. Did it match the goals you set?

If you are not sure where to start, try calling an investment company such as Fidelity. Most investment companies are happy to help a college student practice investing with imaginary money because these students usually become actual clients in future years.

Note: if you do not yet use the "real" Form 1040 for your taxes you probably do not want to actually buy and sell stocks, since any capital gains or loss will greatly complicate your tax information!

15. Personal Future Expectations

Analyze how your future wealth will be affected by your college degree.

How much will your planned degree(s) cost you? How much do you expect your income will increase after you have these degrees? How long will it take you to pay off your college loans?

This project idea is the most vague and "up in the air". Be especially careful as you document your research. Where do you find answers to these questions? Do second opinions agree or vary wildly? Be sure to cite the sources you used as you try to answer these questions as accurately as possible.