inside the meltdown

Financial Literacy Guide: Individual Borrowing and Mortgages


About the Film

Inside the Meltdown investigates the causes of the worst economic crisis in 70 years and how the government responded. The film chronicles the inside stories of the Bear Stearns deal, Lehman Brothers' collapse, the propping up of insurance giant AIG and the $700 billion bailout. It also examines what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke didn't see and couldn't stop.


Watching the Film

Teachers can either assign the film for viewing as homework or show the film in class. Suggested discussion questions are provided. The lessons and activities in this guide are focused on excerpts from the film and can be viewed on DVD in class or online.


Note to Teachers

This guide is intended for classes in social studies, civics and government, economics, business studies, mathematics, current events and history; grade levels 9-12. This lesson on individual borrowing begins with a review of terms and an introductory activity that provides important background and context. The main lesson focusing on mortgages and individual borrowing builds from the film Inside the Meltdown. You can modify the lesson to accommodate instructional time and student abilities.


Discussion Questions:

This guide includes a list of questions for students to discuss after viewing Inside the Meltdown


Introductory Activity:

“Financial Background and Context”
A review of financial terms, overview of mortgage process, credit scores and leverage


Featured Lesson Plan:

“Individual Borrowing, Mortgages and the Role of Consumers”

Lesson Objectives:

Students will understand:

  • How credit scores impact consumer loans
  • The process consumers use to borrow in order to buy a home
  • How to determine an appropriate home price
  • How leverage was applied by banks and helped to bring about the subprime lending crisis


Additional Lesson Ideas:

"Credit Cards and Borrowing"


Purchasing the Film:

Inside the Meltdown can be purchased from Shop PBS for Teachers. Also, teachers and students can watch the film streamed on FRONTLINE's Web site,



This lesson was developed bys Simone Bloom Nathan of Media Education Consultants, Inc. It was written by Kevin Murley of Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Md. Advisers were Debra Plafker Gutt of Stuyvesant High School, New York; Greg Timmons, curriculum writer and educational consultant; and Joshua Weiner of Benson Polytechnic High School, Portland, Ore.

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