Friday, April 11, 2014

Tax Day: Visualizations Of The Federal Budget To Teach STEM & Financial Literacy

Source: Visual Budget

Tax day is rapidly approaching. April also happens to be Financial Literacy Month. It makes sense, therefore, to tap into the annual angst of April 15 to teach students about the nuances of the federal budget and the impact of income tax dollars. Aside from offering relevant windows into the priorities of the national government, the visualizations and motion graphics below also provide keen tools to practice mathematical analysis and the graphic charting of data.

The video (above) from Visual Budget lays out a clean presentation of federal dollars, tracing the allocations of taxes coming into the national coffers and then being assigned to specific programs. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2011, Visual Budget aims to make "complex, dense data engaging, exciting and interactive." The sophisticated animation depicts a helpful breakout of taxes paid by each percentage group along the earning spectrum.

Source: Fred Chasen

To personalize the tax-paying process, a clever interaction called "Every Day Is Tax Day" allows users to enter their own salary information to see exactly where their withholdings end up. An award winner in the 2011 Data Viz Challenge, this site from Fred Chasen invites students to click on any colored slice in the data ring to see how funds are spent via government work hours.

Source: Can I Get A Receipt With That

An honorable mention in the Data Viz Challenge that students will appreciate is "Can I Get A Receipt With That." This seemingly simple site from Adam Albrecht and Kevin Mack permits users to input personal earnings to get a printed "receipt" of which federal departments use their tax dollars. The fun is in clicking on the relevant comparisons, such as in seeing how many Chipotle burritos are "spent" on national defense.

Finally, all of these resources are a far cry from the 1954 cartoon (above) produced by the United States government that attempted to make citizens feel better about paying their taxes. In classic retro style and gravelly narration, the clip walks students through the complexities of the national budget.

For more ideas about teaching with taxes, check out "The 1040 Form Turns 100: Resources To Explain Income Taxes."

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