The Great Depression: What would it be like today?
6-8, 9-12, College 100 level
In this lesson students calculate the percentage decline in factors affecting the quality of life such as wages and unemployment, from before the Depression to the beginning of the New Deal. Students then calculate what the same percentage decline for these factors would mean for their lives if it happened today.
By fully participating in this lesson, students will be able to:
(1) describe various measures of economic and social change;
(2) explain how these changes are related, especially how economic decline is associate with social changes; and
(3) calculate how America would change if an economic downturn of the magnitude of the Great Depression were to occur today.
This lesson is expected to require approximately 2 hours of class time.
Materials and Resources
NOTE: You will need to have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer to access the Student Worksheets. You may download Adobe Acrobat free of charge at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html.
For this lesson you will need:
1. Computers connected to the internet for conducting research and to access “The First Measured Century” website.
2. Television, VCR, and videotape of the first hour of “The First Measured Century,” which can be purchased at http://www.shop.pbs.org , ordered by phone by calling 1-800-PLAY-PBS, or recorded during the broadcast:
Schools are permitted to tape The First Measured Century and use the program for educational purposes for one year following each PBS broadcast. Additional information about teacher taping rights can be found at PBS Teachersource: http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/copyright/copyright_trights.shtm
3. Student handout on changes during the Great Depression.
4. Statistical Abstract of the United States 1999 (2000, if available). Available at (http://www.census.gov/statab/www/.
More statistical information can be found at http://www.fedstats.gov
5. Basic arithmetic calculators.
Class Session 1
1. Prepare for this lesson by queuing “The First Measured Century” to the Depression segment of the program. You will find this segment at approximately 1 hour and 7 minutes into tape 1 where the narrative begins with "We've become accustomed to the images of bread lines...."
2. Once the video is set to begin, prepare students for learning by discussing definitions and concepts as described below:
3. Show the Great Depression segment of the video, The First Measured Century.
4. Distribute the handout and explain to students that they are to research and find out the unemployment rate, the marriage rate, and other factors about America today. These facts can easily be found in printed reference sources such as almanacs, or they can be found online, especially at the Fedstats website (www.fedstats.gov), or in The First Measured Century book at this website.
Class Session 2
1. Explain how the students are to calculate the changes for a hypothetical Great Depression in the near future. The students are to calculate what would happen if a change similar to the Great Depression moved across the country over the next three years.
2. Hold a discussion.
1. Students should all participate in the discussion. You may wish to call on students who do not volunteer questions or responses during the discussion.
2. Assess how well students are able to find the appropriate information, make correct calculations and enter them in the worksheet.
Standards for School Mathematics
Data Analysis and Probability