Big Questions Lesson Artifact Spotlight: Income Inequality

Income InequalityAs a student in the online course Socrates and the Battle for the Soul of America, Melissa

Fainman designed a lesson centered around an issue of growing importance in our divided country: income inequality.

The Big Question framing her lesson was:  How does the amount of money you make impact your life choices?

How the lesson works:

  • student groups get one of six fake family identities, each belonging to a social class.
  • over the course of a week, students design a PowerPoint presentation laying out a coherent plan for how to live for a month given their income parameters.
  • students get life happens cards throughout the process of building their PPT. These cards force them to make decision on how to adapt a budget to fix unexpected circumstances.
  • At the end, students debrief their PPT with the class and explain how income impacted life choices.

Here is an overview of her project along with some background articles on social class.


What’s great about Melissa’s question is that it sets students up to see the world through a sociological lens. Seeing reality through a subject-specific lens like sociology is what Dimension 2 Applying Disciplinary Concepts and Tools of the C3 Framework is all about.

Now imagine how a psychology class might twist this lesson to analyze the psychological impacts of income inequality, or how a history class might explore the Roaring Twenties to see how the rapid accumulation of wealth shapes human behavior, or how an economics class could explore the extent to which income inequality impacts consumer demand. The opportunities for learning here are vast and that’s because a really good question sets the framework for understanding and clears many research paths for students to walk upon.  By thoughtfully deliberating on the issue of income inequality in this way, students are taking informed action on an issue that divides the nation and touches their lives directly.

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