Exponential Functions: Introduction to Wealth and Debt Management

Camay Hunter, Math, West Charlotte HS

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


Exponential Functions – this unit will focus on enabling students to thoroughly examine their money management practices and skills as part of a greater social issue and use the tools of mathematics to help in the decision-making process. We will focus on solutions-based approach to tackling and managing household debt. More specifically, Students will examine how saving small amounts can create greater gains overtime while simultaneously engaging in deep mathematical thinking and discourse about how interest rates on debt such as cars, student loans and credit cards can grow exponentially, and limit challenge their ability to amass wealth and hence affect their financial well-being.
The unit will begin with an introduction to and a comparison of the effect of simple and compound interest on money invested. Students will explore the behavior of these two methods of calculating interest with the aim of helping them make connections and distinctions between how they affect future value of money. Students will use tables and graphs to compare the growth of money using simple interest (linear) function and compare it to compound interest (exponential) function.
As they conceptualize the meaning of simple and compound interest, the impact of these two formulae will contribute knowledge that underscores the importance of an education towards social justice and view this as a means to tackle problems that exist in their schools and wider communities. Each lesson will be specifically linked to the management of one form of loan or investment. These scenarios will provide opportunities for students to examine future decisions they make in a more systematic way. They will also build functions to represent the disparities they observe and present these ideas through various media to include but not limited to the production of an advertisement, video or poster to sensitize members of their community to the benefits and drawbacks of simple interest and compound interest over time.