Labor Daze


Today is Labor Day. Shouldn’t you have the day off today?

What is the most common job in your state?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What surprised you about this map?

  3. What didn't surprise you about this map?

  4. What is the big trend you see in the map?

  5. Why do you think that is?

  6. What is one consequence of that trend?

  7. Is this legitimately good news?

  8. Do you plan to be a truck driver?

  9. Do you know any truck drivers?

  10. How different do you think this map would have looked fifty years ago?

  11. What do you think will happen when we mass-produce robot trucks?

  12. How does this map affect you?

  13. In an ideal world, what would the most common job in your state be?

  14. Write a question you'd like answered about this information?

  15. Why do we even have a Labor Day in the first place?

Learning Extension

You can see a slideshow from NPR's Planet Money of how the most common job in each state has changed, year by year, since 1978.

Action Extension

Today is Labor Day. Thank someone who labored for you today.

How many syllables are in caramel


In Debt We Trust


Over the past decade, what has happened to the U.S. government’s public debt?

Statistic: Public debt of the United States from 1990 to 2018* (in billion U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista
  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the current U.S. public debt in total dollars (top chart)?

  3. What is the current U.S. public debt as a percent of GDP (second chart)?

  4. Identify one trend in the top chart?

  5. Explain one cause of that trend.

  6. Describe one consequence of that trend?

  7. Explain whether this trend is good or bad news.

  8. Look at the second chart. Superimpose the names of the US presidents, their years in office, and their political party on this chart. Does a president’s political party impact the rate of debt during their time in office?

  9. Americans have different political ideologies, beliefs, and values. What would the typical American conservative say about a government that spends so much more than it takes in?

  10. To make the debt go down governments need to spend less (budgetary expenditures) than they take in (tax). Imagine you were a politician who wanted to eliminate our debt and advocated spending less (cutting government programs) and taxing more (increasing how much citizens pay the government in taxes). How would your economic goal impact your reelection chances?

  11. Why does American public debt keep rising?

  12. At the same time as the U.S. debt goes up, what is going down?

  13. Write the entire U.S. public debt number out (in other words, turn the trillions into zeroes):

  14. In the entire word there are 7 billion people; 6500 spoken languages, and about 400 billion birds. Name anything in the world that there are more than 22 trillion of:

  15. How does U.S. public debt compare to the rest of the world?*

  16. Who owns the U.S. public debt?*

  17. What role does the U.S. Congress have in the US debt?

  18. What role does the POTUS have in the US debt?

  19. President Trump signed the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reducing U.S. tax revenue. 83 percent of the tax breaks from this bill go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. How will these huge tax cuts impact the U.S. debt?

  20. Based on your knowledge of American politics, why would the President give such a large tax cut during a time of dramatically increasing American debt?

  21. How old will you be in 2050?

  22. If you were to look at the overall trend of this chart, predict what the chart will look like in 2050.*

Visual Extension*

Statistic: The 20 countries with the highest public debt in 2017 in relation to the gross domestic product (GDP) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista
Statistic: Forecast of the gross federal debt of the United States for fiscal years 2018 to 2029 (in billion U.S. dollars) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Learning Extension

Freak yourself out and check out the US debt clock. You’ll love it! Check back in weekly and see how it has grown!

Action Extension

Contact the POTUS or your Congressional Representatives and let your voice be heard about the U.S. debt.

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World's Biggest Companies

What is the world's biggest company by market cap (total financial value)?

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 3.03.17 PM.png
  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What surprised you about this list?

  3. Which of the top 5 companies do you use/visit?

  4. Which of the top 5 companies have you never heard of?

  5. What questions do you have?

  6. How many of the top 5 companies are American (hint: look at the names)?

  7. Would it be more accurate to describe this chart as business globalization or business Americanization?

  8. What kind of businesses are the most powerful companies (manufacturing, tech, financial, energy)?

  9. If you wanted to advise someone how to get rich. What would you tell them to sell?

  10. The Market cap (financial value) of Facebook is greater than the GDP (financial value) of Finland. Share your thoughts about the relative power of corporations in the comments section below:

Learning Extension

Learn more about the world's most valuable businesses in this PWC report.

Action Extension

Ask ten people to name the world's ten biggest companies and share the results in class or on social media.

Bonus Visual from 2012*

As of 2012

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 3.07.01 PM.png

Federal Government Spending as share of GDP

AP US Government and Politics

What portion of the GDP did the federal government spend in 2016?

Pew Research Center

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your silly prediction?

  2. Would you be embarrassed to share your prediction with your most special friend?

  3. How surprised are you by the overall portion of the GDP that the federal government spends?

  4. You do know what GDP means, don’t you?

  5. Spending by what other levels of government are not included in this chart?

  6. How do you think this spending level compares to other advanced post-industrial countries like Switzerland, Japan, or New Zealand?

  7. What are two trends in spending you see in the chart?

  8. Explain the cause of one of those trends.

  9. What is a consequence of one of these trends?

  10. Based on the trends in the chart, what portion of GDP do you think the US government will be spending by 2028?

  11. How familiar are most Americans with the data from this chart?

  12. Currently, what is the biggest single expenditure from the US government?

  13. Why do you think that is?

  14. Donald Trump, in his budget outline, has proposed increases in defense spending (very light blue section of chart) and decreases in "other" spending (darkest blue section of chart) for things like the NEA, NASA, and the CPB. Do you support that idea?

  15. If you had to cut any one area of spending in this chart, explain which area it would be.

  16. Which areas in this chart are entitlement or mandatory spending, and cannot be simply cut by a new budget?

  17. Overall, is this chart good or bad news?

  18. What would the framers of the Constitution think about this chart, besides “what the heck is a social security?”

  19. Former Treasury official Peter Fisher once said, the federal government is basically “a gigantic insurance company,” albeit one with “a sideline business in national defense and homeland security.” Based on the data from the chart, does Fisher's assessment seem correct?

Learning Extension

Read this swell new Pew Report putting federal spending in perspective.

Action Extension

Contact the POTUS, or if you're not at Mar-a-Lago, go to his website to share your opinion of US federal spending and what he should do about it!

Visual Extension (at absolutely no additional cost to the federal government)!!!


Aw, that's adorable.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothes Extension

Changes in Spending

AP US Government & Politics

By 2040, what portion of U.S. Federal budget spending will be discretionary

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the difference between mandatory and discretionary spending?

  3. List two examples of mandatory spending:

  4. List two examples of discretionary spending:

  5. What story do these charts tell?

  6. What is one reason for the changing nature of U.S. federal spending?

  7. What are two consequences of the changing nature of U.S. federal spending?

  8. As discretionary spending gets squeezed, what are some specific discretionary U.S. government programs that you think might get cut?

  9. Describe the general trend in overall (discretionary + mandatory)U.S. government spending?

  10. What specific parts of the government play a major role in creating the budget?

  11. Describe the U.S. Government’s budgetary process.

  12. Let's say that you felt the government was spending too much money on mandatory spending. Is there anything the federal government could do about this?

  13. Overall, is this good news or bad?

  14. Why doesn't the U.S. save money and just stop paying the interest on the debt?

  15. What questions do you have about all this?

  16. In the comments section below, list one program or expenditure that you wouldn't mind seeing cut from the US federal budget.

Visual Extension


Learning Extension

Learn more about the changes in discretionary spending at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Action Extension

Plug in your family information to the tax receipt calculator to see where the federal government spent your family's taxes.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothes Extension