Class Assignment and Discussion: The Napkin Assignment

Teaching Tip and Assignment:  One of the best personal finance columnists around is Carl Richards, a certified financial planner and founder of Prasada Capital Management.  On his blog “Bucks, Making the Most of Your Money”in the New York Times, Carl not only writes about personal finance issues, but also has produced a continuing series of back-of-the-napkin drawings called “The Sketchpad: Personal Finance on a Napkin.”  To say the least, they are extremely clever.  For example, he has one that appears as two circles with a small area of intersection.  One circle is titled “Buying real estate w/o doing the math” while the other is titled “Running a marathon w/o training.”  The intersection of those two circles is darkened and an arrow points to that darken area and says “Hurts a lot!”  He then has a column that explains the point of the napkin drawing and the personal finance lesson that can be learned from it.

Once these napkin drawings are introduced to your students, you will find that many of them will return to that website on their own.  Here are two effective ways to introduce this website to your students.


Pick six different napkin drawings from “The Sketchpad: Personal Finance on a Napkin” and provide them to your students without the explanatory Carl’s column that accompanies them.  Either outside of class or in class have your students write a short explanation of what they think he is trying to convey with one of the drawings.  Then, in class, have them share their responses with the rest of the class.

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