Life on Minimum Wage – Economics Lesson

Teaching economics is one of my favorite things to do each year. A big part of the reason that I enjoy teaching economics is that learning about money gets my students excited about class. Another reason that it’s fun to teach is that economics easily lends itself to simulation activities that get kids actively engaged in learning. In the past I’ve used simulations created by the Buck Institute and simulations created by Biz Ed. While those simulations are good, I’ve always wanted something that students could personalize just little bit more. So today during my lesson planning time, I created the outline and materials for a simulation about living on minimum wage in the United States.

The purpose of Life on Minimum Wage is for students to recognize how difficult it is to save money when your only job(s) pay minimum wage without benefits. To win (prize not determined yet) at Life on Minimum Wage the students have to reach five financial goals that they select. To earn money the students have to complete the tasks of their assigned jobs. The students then have to pay required bills before using money for their selected financial goals. As the game progresses students will be issued “surprise” cards which require them to spend money on things like speeding tickets, trips to a health clinic, and increases in rent.

All of the jobs in Life on Minimum Wage are connected so that if one “business” slows production or closes, the workers of another business are also effected. The goal here is to demonstrate the effects of a business closing on a small town’s economy.

I’ve published all of the rules of the game and needed “cards” as a Google Document which you can view here. I would love to hear feedback for improvement from anyone that has done a similar activity. Please note, that I designed this activity with a rural Maine population in mind. Therefore, some aspects of the activity might need alteration if you want to use the activity in your classroom. For example, if you’re in Florida you might want to replace the goal of “buying a snowmobile” with “buying a jet ski.”

Life on Minimum Wage – Lesson Plan


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