MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Calculus, algebra, geometry. Chances are many of us might not remember much about high school math. But WCCO found one class in Rosemount where the lessons are paying off.

“Your goal today is to go through and create a mathematical model that follows these gas and electric bills over time,” Dan Bungert said.

Listen in and you’ll hear some serious adulting going on at Rosemount High School.  Inside a room filled with Money magazines, Roth IRA charts, even attire that advertises the bottom line.

“Having that last 15 years is so important so they realize they need that with them,” Bungert said.

From bills to debt to 401(k) accounts, you might be hard-pressed to find a more engaged pre-calculus class than Bungert’s.

“You can really understand where the math you’re learning can be used in your real life,” high school student Kate Lillemoen said.

The light bulb went off a few years ago with a simple lesson plan in compound interest centered around retirement savings.

“When they see that first calculation that shows if they start at the age of 20 they could end up with $2 million versus waiting until they’re 30 and they only have $800,000. Once they see those two numbers they’re on board with the rest of it,” Bungert said.

Ever since, Bungert’s been focused on math problems using money.

“It’s a reality for them in the coming years the college debt that they’re planning on taking on, the jobs they’re going to be getting in the next few years, leaving the house and being on their own,” he added.

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He’s noticed how it’s started new conversations at home.

“There are a lot of people who say why didn’t they teach us this in high school, why didn’t they show us this stuff,” Bungert said.

Bungert believes it’s best as a team approach to an all-too-often taboo topic.

“I think in letting it be taboo we’re hiding some of those realities from our kids,” Bungert said.

If these students are any indication, honesty pays off.

“The earlier you save, the better, the more interest you’re going to get, just the better off you’re going to be,” Lillemoen said.

Bungert has presented his curriculum at teacher conferences in the past.  Apple Valley High School is now trying something similar, and since it’s a pre-calculus class, teachers have more freedom on what they can teach since students have most of the state standards met by then.

Liz Collin

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