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Statistics and Financial Algebra “Open House” Teaches Students the Value of Financial Planning and the Stages of Homeownership

In her Statistics and Financial Algebra course, Upper School math teacher Kate Tremarche aims to teach students math-based life skills to help them in various aspects of financial planning and management. For their second project of the year, students dove into the process of developing a ten-year savings plan with the goal of purchasing a home. They conducted research on the average Massachusetts citizen’s income and ideal living locations based on lifestyle, social security taxes, and heating, utilities, and parking costs, among other expenses, while factoring in the impact of potential hurdles such as losing a job and experiencing a global pandemic, all while performing the math by hand.

To present their research, students hosted an interactive Open House where staff and faculty visited each student’s booth and asked questions about the houses they chose to research. C. Meckel ’24 decided to research a house in Newton and a houseboat on the Charlestown Marina. This project revealed to her the bias in the housing market against those below the poverty line, and the trade-off between slightly increased financial stability when renting an apartment versus personal security when owning a home. G. Turco ’24 decided on a modest apartment in Malden and a $31 million three-story townhouse in downtown Boston. Turco remarked that one of her major takeaways from this project was “realizing how important it is to start saving, and how I should start saving now. If I am a single woman at 35 and want to buy a home in this price range, I’ll know what kind of financial planning that will take.”

When asked what surprised her most during her research, N. Donovan ’24 shared: “the social security and medicare taxes! I was shocked to learn how high they are. I also learned that salaries listed on job postings are not actually the money an employee would be making. So much is taken out of that number.” R. Kelly ’24 reflected on the state of the housing market and the eye-opening experience of searching for an adequate living situation given her hypothetical income. “The lack of affordable housing is something that has been made increasingly evident to me throughout this project,” she shared. “In a recent conversation with Ms. Tremache, I had questioned, ‘Does this budget include prices of water and electricity bills?’ and when her answer was no, I was forced to pause and reflect on how this is the reality for so many throughout my own neighborhood.”

Upper School Head Melissa Bleakney-Dalton attended the Open House and was impressed with the extensive student-conducted research and the direct real-world applications of the information taught in class. “This knowledge is important to have,” she remarked at Turco’s booth, “especially for girls. Historically, women have not always had access to this information.” She shared that it is empowering for Financial Algebra students to have this knowledge, and they are excited to share it with their peers. “We want our girls to go out into the world confident in themselves and prepared to make well-informed decisions and operate from a place of agency and self-determination,” she explained. “As they enter adulthood, they need to believe in themselves and know themselves capable of charting their own path.” This class, equipped with future projects about investing money in the stock market, dealing with student loan debt, and buying your first car, ensures this confidence and agency. 

Kate echoed Melissa’s sentiments, sharing that this class opens students' eyes to aspects of adulthood that they don't usually have access to in a welcoming and non-judgemental environment. “It’s a pathway to greater awareness about their own lives and the world around them,” she shared. “This subject matter connects to their own life, it’s more relational, and it’s really meaningful to them.” The Open House format of presenting students’ findings was a reciprocal exchange of information and experiences between students and faculty and staff. “The format makes it conversational. It’s good for seniors especially to have this type of interaction with faculty and staff because they become part of adult conversations that they didn’t have access to before.”