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Subject: Tax games and simulations? rss

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Neil Carr
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I'm going to be teaching about taxes this upcoming quarter and one hole in my planning that I haven't been able to fill is to have some kind of simulation that would work with my students.

The key challenge is that in working with at-risk youth there are a lot of cognitive and emotional challenges that make a lot of conventional lessons unworkable. I have often said that I'm trying to teach high school content, aiming for middle school competency, but requiring elementary school scaffolding to support the students.

As an example, I'll be teaching about the progressive tax system we have in the US, trying to convey the nuance of how you will be taxed across all the tax brackets that your income falls within, and thus it is progressive. However, I have to unpack that as if I were teaching it to nine year olds even though it will be to 16 year olds.

I can do that, but what I'm having a challenge with is finding some kind of game or simulation that will have something to do with our tax system which is really simple, but nonetheless models some basic dynamic of the phenomena of taxes. Procedural actions don't work well for many of my students, which is unfortunate as a lot of games over the years could tackle some interesting ideas. Likewise, holding many bits of information in your head and then using that information in also very challenging. Direct competition isn't going to do much beyond make desk flip.

So I'm tying to find some way to model something about our tax system which is luck-driven, multiplayer solitaire, and operates at a gut level. Life, Uno and Apples to Apples are staples at our school that any student can follow.

I've also been looking at computer games, but once again the complexity of a mainstream audience just pushes too far past a tolerable point with many of the students. You could do a Simcity/Caesar/etc. type of game where taxes are paying for infrastructure and services, but it's too much detail and too many things to juggle in terms of dynamics.

If there is nothing that can fit the hole I have then so be it, I have a wealth of things to cover for the class, but offering up a hands on simulation could help break up the quarter, approaching things from a different angle for students that can't handle much of a cognitive load to begin with.

Any ideas? I wanted to fire this off to RSP because then people don't have to dance around politics of taxes, which I will be teaching about.
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James Myers
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I don't think gamification is a good idea for this topic.

I understand your desire to break up monotony, but gamification really doesn't do very well for imparting mathematical ideas specifically.

Anyway, I just wanted to get that post out of the way -- if you're deadset on picking a game for 9-year olds that will teach taxes, we can probably figure something out anyway.
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Josh
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Hmmm a tax exercise.

Assign each student an ammount of 'money' for a period of time. Make these values vary significsntly (within reason for the exercise) create a schedule of rewards over a period of time. Let the class assign tax vues, flat, prpgressive, regressive as they like. Tax is levied at each scheduled reward and these funds are pooled and divided by # of classmates to determine the reward level for the dnture class. After a few rounds allow class members to buy extra votes in the final vote with their personally allotted funds in order to influence how taxes are levied. Etc. Etc.
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Neil Carr
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Terwox wrote:
I understand your desire to break up monotony, but gamification really doesn't do very well for imparting mathematical ideas specifically.


Ah, the one piece of information I forgot to add! I'm the social studies teacher, so it isn't really the math that I'm after, but rather the social decisions and implications. Not that math is absent from what I'd hope to have the students work on, but it's more about ideas of interdependence, the common good, and so on through the lens of taxes.
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Ben Vincent
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Simple, luck driven boardgames? How about Pay Day or Careers? I'm pretty sure they both had taxes.

There's an RPG called Executive decision where every plays cabinet members trying to influence the president. The discussions can be complicated, but the decisions come down to choose A, B, or C - all of which have tradeoffa. At least a couple of the issues revolve around taxes and spending, but once you see how it works ou could probably write your own scenarios easily too. You can get it free from the designers website: http://www.gregstolze.com/downloads.html

On the computer game front, what about https://www.nationstates.net ? It's not specifically about taxes, but they do come up.
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Walt
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echoota wrote:
So I'm tying to find some way to model something about our tax system which is luck-driven, multiplayer solitaire, and operates at a gut level.

I think this is a mistake because the tax system is player-driven, if you will. However, maybe I'm over-reading "luck-driven".

Hamurabi[sic] is the closest game that comes to mind. It's a computer game, but very simple and easy to "board-ize". This article may have some useful game suggestions:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamurabi_%28video_game%29

Hm. Maybe Kingsburg? Portray buying buildings as taxing for infrastructure and building armies as taxing for defense. Points are money. Here's a PC implementation you can try: Item for Geeklist "Sebastian Sohn's SoftBoard Games: Free, Commercial, and Abandoned Computer Version of Board, Card and Role-Playing Games with Computer AI (Artificial Intelligence) Opponents with Screen Shots"
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Shawn Fox
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I don't know of any games, but one approach could be to do it with a bin packing method that you create yourself.

Income is represented by a rectangle. The poor person has a small income rectangle and the middle and upper class people have proportionally bigger rectangles. Spending is represented by smaller rectangles or wooden blocks if you can find / make them. Everyone first has to buy the basic requirements like food, housing, transportation, and so on by placing the smaller spending rectangles into their income rectangle. Then you'd also have other things that can be bought, like vacations, a second home, cable tv, cell phone, and so on.

Then you can show if each person had to pay 1/3 of their income in taxes, the poor wouldn't even be able to buy the basic things but the rich could still buy all the basic necessities plus they would have room for all of the luxury goods as well.
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Mac Mcleod
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How about this...

Uno cards.

Determine player income 1 to z cards.
Deal each player 5 cards plus 1 extra card per income.

Players play a simple trick taking round each winning 0 to 24 cards. (9>0, Green>red>yellow>blue). Ties play an extra card each as tie breaker. If a player runs out of cards they lose the trick.

Collect taxes
0 to 9 cards, players give up no cards.
10 to 12 cards, players give up a random card to taxes.

Over 12 cards. Deal 11 cards to hand pile. Deal next random card to taxes. Now for remaining cards deal 3 cards to hand pile and then 1 card to the taxes pile until out of cards (this is a 25% tax rate, for a 33% tax rate deal 2 to hand, 1 to taxes. For a 50% tax rate deal 1 to hand and 1 to taxes)

Tax cards are distributed evenly to players who have less than 2 cards. Excess/uneven cards are discarded back to the draw deck.

Cost of living is 2 cards. Each player pays the draw deck 2 cards they choose.

Add cards won above to their hands.

Shuffle the draw deck.

Continue til someone wins 60 cards, or 6 rounds.

Then take suggestions from students for the two tax rates.

First, where they know what their income will be.

Second where they won't know their income until after they set the tax rates.

You could also have a round where players of the last game start with extra cards.


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Ken
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echoota wrote:
Terwox wrote:
I understand your desire to break up monotony, but gamification really doesn't do very well for imparting mathematical ideas specifically.


Ah, the one piece of information I forgot to add! I'm the social studies teacher, so it isn't really the math that I'm after, but rather the social decisions and implications. Not that math is absent from what I'd hope to have the students work on, but it's more about ideas of interdependence, the common good, and so on through the lens of taxes.


Can you leverage the veil of ignorance and ask them to get together and design a tax system themselves instead of presenting ours first? Then you can make working the numbers both a bit more interactive and pertinent. That also lets you ask questions about "fairness" and "equity" and things like that to start exposing some of the weaknesses/strengths of different approaches.

I think to game this, you talk about our system last and let them make suggestions first.
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