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        The Business of Interest

        In this lesson, students learn about loans, interest on and repayment of loans through a model small business interactive. They will begin by watching a video about how a business owner, who runs a fashion compay based on sustainable practices, uses her excellent credit record to secure a loan. The interactive game has them running their own business and making decisions about the loan they get.  They will also learn about the day-to-day operations of a business.

        Lesson Summary


        In this lesson, students develop an understanding of interest, learn how to calculate interest on loans, and comprehend that interest is added onto the principal of the loan and can necessitate additional income for repayment. They also learn key terms associated with loans.

        Students watch a video segment from the PBS series What’s Up in Finance? to see how a small-business owner successfully receives a loan, but finds she needs additional cash flow to repay it and cover the interest expense. They complete hands-on activities choosing appropriate loans for a variety of business needs. Afterward, students apply the concepts they have learned and integrate their knowledge of loans while playing an interactive game about a T-shirt business.

        Finally, students discuss the concept of sustainability in a business context, and discover how sustainable business practices can support the profitability of a business. Students study a hypothetical company profile to discuss potential sustainable business practices the company could adopt, and think about how these might also save money for the company in an environmentally responsible way.


        Students will be able to:

        • Understand the components of a loan
        • Compute interest using percentages
        • Compute monthly repayment installments for a loan
        • Recognize the need for additional revenue to cover the cost of loan repayment
        • Understand the value of sustainable business practices

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time:

        (4) 45 minute class periods

        Media Resources:

        Green Chic Video

        In this video from What’s Up in Finance?, Anna needs a loan to expand her eco-friendly fashion start-up.

        Rags to Riches Interactive

        In this interactive game, students launch and run an online T-shirt business, with the help of a loan from a bank.


        Web Sites:

        The following sites offer resources on various topics of sustainability:

        Vehicles and Fuel

        Learn about biodiesel, a clean-burning alternative fuel.

        Reduce the impact on the environment with a hybrid vehicle.

        The Office Environment:

        INFORM: Waste Reduction Tips for the Office

        Strategies for a Better Environment, this fact sheet provides tips to cut waste in the offices.

        RecycleWorks: Why Buy Recycled?

        Reasons to purchase recycled paper and recycled paper products.

        WorldWatch Institute

        A list of green procurement programs.

        Renewable Energy:

        EERE: Roofus' Solar and Energy Efficient Home

        A tour of energy-efficient technologies for the home and workplace from the U.S. Department of Energy.

        The Energy Story: Renewable Energy vs Fossil Fuels

        Learn the differences between Renewable and Non-renewable Energy.

        Renewable Energy Resources: A Research Guide for Students

        A collection of renewable energy resources.

        EERE: Kids Home Page

        A variety of links to kid-friendly information about energy efficiency and renewable energy, from the U.S. Department of Energy.

        Before The Lesson

        Bookmark the web site used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.

        Preview all of the video segments and Web sites used in the lesson to make certain that they are appropriate for your students, currently available, and accessible from your classroom.

        Download the video segments used in this lesson onto your hard drive or portable storage device, or prepare to stream the segments from your classroom.

        Introductory Activity

        1. Open the discussion by asking if any of the students have ever borrowed money, or contemplated borrowing money, and if they know what "interest" is.
        2. Discuss how loans work. Explain to students that a loan is a type of debt. A bank or other financial organization loans money to a borrower, who must pay it back over time. The bank generally charges a cost for the loan, which is called "interest." Interest has to be paid back along with the loan.
        3. Next, using the Loan Components Teacher Organizer, write on the board the components of the loan: principal, interest, term, and monthly installment. Discuss with the class what each of the terms means.
        4. Explain that interest is generally calculated as a percentage of a loan. For example, if $100 is borrowed with a 5% interest rate over a year, $105 must be repaid (the principal: $100, + 5% of the $100 = $5).
        5. To ensure that students understand the mathematical concept of interest rates, pass out the Loan Calculation Student Organizer. Using the top grid on the organizer, have students fill in the "interest amount" and "total repayment amount" columns to calculate the different amounts of interest generated on a loan with $1,000 in principal, at a variety of interest rates. This will allow the students to see how an interest rate impacts the total repayment amount. You may want to copy the chart on the board. Use the Business of Interest Teacher Answer Key to check the answers.
        6. Next, have students break up the $1,000 principal of the loan into 12 installments to represent a year (don't include interest calculations at this point). Ask the students how much the monthly payment would be for the $1,000 ($1,000 ÷ 12 = $83.33 per month).
        7. Then, ask students to take the total value of the loan plus the interest fee at the six different rates, and divide each total repayment amount by 12 to see a year's worth of twelve monthly payments. These values should be entered in the last column of the Loan Calculation Student Organizer, titled "monthly installment for one year," and the answers can be found in the Teacher Answer Key. Discuss how the interest rate impacts the monthly payments.
        8. Explain that all the examples and calculations students have been doing thus far have related to simple interest, which is calculated on the amount of the principal only. In reality, most interest that is paid -- either to a savings account or toward a loan -- is compound interest, which is interest calculated not only on the principal but also on all the interest that has accumulated already.
        9. Provide the following example to the class: We previously discussed borrowing $100 for one year at 5% interest. Using a simple interest calculation, $5 in interest will be added to the loan at the end of the year, for a total of $105 due to the bank. But most loans do not calculate interest only once per year. The interest may be spread out over the course of the year, with calculations made each month, each week, or even each day. The length of time between each addition of interest is called the "period" of compounding. The more frequent the period, the more effective interest will be added to the cost of the loan.
        10. The formula: Effective Rate = (1 + (i / n))n- 1 can be used to assess the effect of compounding. In this formula, "i" is the stated rate of interest, and "n" is the number of compounding periods per year.
        11. Ask the students to calculate the effective rate of interest for a 5% (0.05) stated rate of interest. (For a 5% stated rate of interest, the Effective Rate = (1 + (0.05 / 12))12-1 . The effective rate is 0.0512 or 5.12%). For the $100 loan, this will mean that $105.12 will be owed to the bank at the end of the year. This may not sound like a big difference, but for larger amounts of money, longer periods of time, and/or higher rates of interest, the compounding of interest really adds up.

        Learning Activity 1

        1. Discuss with the students why a business might want to take out a loan, even though it means having to pay back interest. For example, businesses might take out loans to expand their offices, open new shops, or to introduce new products. The idea is that the company may not have the cash on hand to expand the business or introduce a new product line, but with the loan's help they can achieve their goals. They also expect to generate more profit through the expansion or upgrade, and this profit will enable them to pay back the loan.
        2. Explain the need for a business to repay the principal of the loan plus interest. Reiterate to students that most loans are repaid on a monthly basis, and that payment is an additional cost to the company.
        3. Explain to the class that they will be watching a short video segment from What’s Up in Finance? about a fashion designer who applies for a loan for her eco-friendly start-up business.
        4. Ask students to pay careful attention to what Anna, the business owner, expects to achieve with her loan. Play the Green Chic segment for the class.
        5. Review the "Green Chic" segment, and analyze why Anna needed a loan for her fashion business. (She wanted to produce her spring line.)
        6. Next, discuss how Anna will need to make enough money from her expanded business to repay the loan plus interest.

        Learning Activity 2

        1. Hand out the Company Card Student Organizer. Ask students to read about each of the three companies on the cards.
        2. Discuss how each business has different financial needs, and a different repayment ability once the firm has borrowed money. Next, students will match each business with a loan type that fits its needs.
        3. Ask students to take out their Loan Calculation Student Organizer. The students need to review the six different loans and payback schedules in the "Possible Business Loans" grid. Students then calculate the six different repayment amounts, and the monthly installments that would be required for a one-year loan term. (They will use simple interest calculations. See the Business of Interest Teacher Answer Key for the correct responses.)
        4. Then, ask the students to review the three businesses and their loan needs. First, the students will match the loans with the loan needs of the company, and fill those in the "Potential Loans" space in each of the three Company Card Student Organizers. Each company will have two loans that fit its needs.
        5. Next, ask the students to determine the loan that each company can actually afford, given the extra revenue they expect to generate using the loan. Students should then fill in that loan in the "Final Choice" space at the bottom of each Company Card Student Organizer. See the Business of Interest Teacher Answer Key for the correct responses.
        6. Discuss why certain loans were not affordable for the companies. (The monthly repayment amounts were higher than the additional income the company would earn.)

        Learning Activity 3

        1. Ask the students how they would make decisions about borrowing money if they ran their own business. What risks would they be taking by borrowing money? (For example, they might not be able to pay it back.) Students will then play the online game Rags to Riches to apply the knowledge that they have gained.
        2. Introduce the online game by telling students that they will be role-playing a young entrepreneur who has decided to start a business selling T-shirts on the Internet. The entrepreneur has successfully received a loan from a bank to open the business, and now will have to try and run the business successfully while making a profit. As they play the game, ask students to jot down (individually or in groups) some strategies for keeping a business afloat.
        3. Once students have finished playing the game, ask them to report what they learned. Did they pick up any business strategies? (For example, they may have learned that they need to make loan repayments on time to the bank, that more advertising can increase revenue, and that they need to keep some savings on hand for emergencies.) For some students, the game may have ended before the 12 weeks of the business quarter were up. If so, discuss why their business failed and what they could do to make the enterprise more successful in the future.

        Culminating Activity

        1. Explain to students that a "sustainable business" is one that operates in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. This means that the business might try to cut down its energy usage, try to use renewable resources, and adopt practices that protect the environment and human rights.
        2. Ask students to talk about what it meant for Anna's business to be "sustainable." Specifically, lead the discussion by talking about Anna's use of fabrics and dyes that don't harm the environment.
        3. Emphasize to the students that sustainable business practices are not necessarily more expensive than others, and in fact can come at a cost savings for businesses.
        4. Next, ask students to review the Sustainable Business Student Organizer to view an example of a company and its practices.
        5. Break up the class into groups to research on the Web and instruct them to brainstorm different ways the company could combine or replace some of their current practices with more sustainable ones. Web sites with information on various sustainable practices can be found in the Materials section of this lesson plan, and on the "Sustainable Business” Student Organizer. After conducting their research, the student groups should list specific ways the company could implement environmentally friendly practices.
        6. Then, ask the groups to determine which of the sustainable practices could save the company money as well as help the environment.
        7. Come back together as a group and ask students to list the different sustainable practices their group found. Ask the students to identify which practices can also help the company financially. Some sustainable strategies could include: choosing alternative energy sources for heating and cooling, switching to energy-efficient compact-fluorescent light bulbs, decreasing fuel mileage and/or switching to alternative-fuel vehicles, and decreasing solid waste by reducing and recycling.


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