It was a traffic accident, followed by slow and spotty service from a local body shop that convinced Glenview, IL teacher Daryl Nitz to invest in a new car. To whom did he turn for help in choosing the right vehicle? His fifth grade math class, naturally.
"My unexpected circumstances struck me as a good opportunity to let my students experience the car buying process firsthand, and choose the right car for me."
So Nitz, and his fellow Glen Grove Elementary teacher Pauline Poulakos, combined their two accelerated 4th and 5th grade math classes for what would be a month long project.
"The parameters I gave the students were that the car needed to be under $20,000, have a nice stereo system, a sunroof, and also be a cool color."
The students initially selected 30 cars, using the Internet and consumer reporting magazines to compare various vehicles and their features. Environmentally conscious students voiced their preference for choosing a vehicle with good gas mileage, so cars that were not deemed fuel-efficient were quickly ruled out. Other cars dropped off the list for being too small. At six feet four inches, Mr. Nitz needed some headroom.
When the list was pared down, Mr. Nitz test drove roughly eight vehicles and reported back to the students. From there, the classes narrowed the selection down to four cars, and broke off into teams for final inspections. Mr. Nitz invited local dealers to his school to showcase the cars, which gave the students a chance to ask questions about the different vehicles, their safety features, price, and equally important, whether their stereos could play mp3 players or not. The salesmen definitely had their work cut out for them.
As part of the process, Mr. Nitz also invited Kathleen Quinn, a representative from a local credit union, to speak to his students about financing, and how the interest rates on various loans, over time, affect the total cost of the car.
Mr. Nitz reflected on some of the students' responses when asked what they learned on this project.
"I was particularly impressed how the kids not only learned a lot about the specifics of car features, gas mileage, and loans, but also understood the value in taking one's time and not feeling rushed when making a big purchase, and establishing trust with the salesperson."
Nitz has been teaching for nearly twenty years, and especially loves when lessons can have a long-term effect on students.
"I believe this is one of those experiences students will remember when they become adults and are contemplating a major purchase."
So which vehicle did Mr. Nitz ultimately choose? To find out, and see some of the students' vehicle inspections in action, check out the following video.