Holiday Charity: A Math Activity About Poverty

The holiday season often marks the launch of toy and canned food drives in schools. Use this activity to deepen students understanding of those being served and the dynamics of poverty in the United States.
Grade Level
Social Justice Domain

Encouraging Giving and Connections

I like to switch things up every once in a while, so I assigned my high school students a project I’d never done before—a gift book. In addition to the academic value, I hoped to strengthen at least one teen-adult connection at a time when it’s sometimes hard to just grunt, “Good morning,” without an argument. (I know this because I have two teens in my own house.) I also wanted students to be able to create a keepsake to give a loved one during the holiday season. Many students could not afford to buy anything. In our rural school, many students come from low-income homes.

Getting Past the Joy of Consumerism

I asked a small group of second-graders what they would like to find inside their mailboxes. That was after we read a story about a goose who opened her mailbox and found a kite. I expected to hear answers of things: video games, toys or basketballs. But the first student who raised her hand looked at me with sincere, big brown eyes and said, "I'd like to find a letter from my dad." In my classroom, my kids say the profoundest things.

Poor in the Land of Plenty

Something about Belinda’s brave smile looks familiar to me. The briefest shadow darkens her face while other students banter about the gifts they’ve asked for and the ones they’ve already received. Because she’s outgoing, the other kids don’t recognize the proud face she wears while they talk of skiing, sumptuous meals and overseas travel. Belinda never says a word. She just smiles and listens.

"What Is Being Normalized?"

TT Educator Grants support social justice work at the classroom, school and district level. TT's grant manager caught up with grantee Chris Hass, whose project included families in his students' social justice education.