Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Fiscal Fitness

The Economic Impact of Fiscal Policy

Laura Halstied, Shayna Pond, Daniel Schwarz | Published: March 14th, 2024 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course Economics, U.S. Government
  • Time Frame Time Frame 90 minutes
  • Duration More 2 periods


In this lesson, students recall their prior knowledge about how the economy functions. Next, students predict how the federal budget is spent before reading an Infogram about fiscal policy. To extend their learning, students play a game with partners that requires them to cut or fund programs. Students summarize their learning by responding to the essential question.

Essential Question(s)

How does government taxing and spending affect the economy?



Students retrieve prior knowledge about how the economy functions during a Justified True or False exercise.


Students predict how much money the government spends on various programs and agencies, and they design pie charts to reflect those predictions.


Students examine an infographic about government spending and use a note catcher to organize their observations as they read.


Students act out what they have learned by playing the People’s Pie game, in which they will try to fund important programs without borrowing too much money or setting tax rates that are too high.


Students summarize what they have learned by writing a Two-Minute Paper in response to the essential question.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Fiscal Policy Infographic (digital)

  • Fiscal Policy Note Catcher handout (attached; one per student) 

  • Dividing the (Budget) Pie handout (attached; one per pair of students)

  • People’s Pie Notes handout (attached; one per pair of students)

  • Infogram (How the Government Spends Its Money)

  • Copy paper (one per pair of students)

  • Personal devices 

  • Earbuds/headphones (optional)

  • Colored pencils and/or markers

  • Pens/pencils


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Review the essential question and lesson objectives on slides 3 and 4. Move to slide 5. For this portion of the lesson, students will participate in a modified version of the Justified True or False strategy. Tell students to think about the statement on the slide and decide if it is true or false. Have students stand up if they think the statement is true and stay seated if they think the statement is false. Ask a student to share why they think the statement is true or false. Move to slide 6 to reveal if the statement was true or false. Repeat this process with slides 7 through 14.


15 Minute(s)

Place students into pairs, and introduce the Dividing the Pie strategy to students. Pass out the attached Dividing the (Budget) Pie handout and a piece of blank copy paper and colored pencils and/or markers to each pair of students. Display slide 15, and tell students to think about how the federal government decides to spend tax revenue. Have students read over the categories on the handout, or read as a class. Tell students to work with their partner to assign a percentage for each category and then create a pie chart on the copy paper making each section of the pie a different color.

After providing time for students to create their pie charts, have them partner up and discuss the percentages they gave each budget category with another student. Ask for a few volunteers to share what categories they assigned the largest and smallest percentages to. Move to slide 16, which includes a pie chart showing how the federal government recently spent its budget. Have a brief class discussion during which you ask students what they notice about the ways in which the actual budget compares to the pie charts they created.


20 Minute(s)

Pass out the attached Fiscal Policy Note Catcher to each student. Display slide 17, and have students use personal devices to access the Infogram (Spanish-Language version: link). Tell students to read through the Infogram and take notes on the Fiscal Policy Note Catcher as they read.

After providing time for students to read the Infogram and take notes, review the note catcher with students. Ask for volunteers to share what they have written on each part of the note catcher. Use this time to correct any misconceptions students might have. 


40 Minute(s)

Display slide 18, and place students into pairs. Pass out the attached People’s Pie Notes handout to each pair of students. Display the game, People’s Pie, and start a new game. Model how to play the game for students for just a few minutes. Direct students' attention to the screen that has the player set tax rates, and ensure they understand the different types of taxes: corporate, payroll, and income. Let students know that clicking on a blue word will generate a pop-up box with the definition. Then, direct students' attention to the “Expenses” option, which shows students how much money they have to spend (notated as “Reserved”). Point out that Social Security and Medicare are mandatory expenses, so those amounts are already taken out of reserves. Set the tax rates and retirement age, and then advance by clicking the “Continue to Discretionary Funding” button. Pick one category, and model for students how cutting of funding proposals changes the discretionary budget and how much has been spent.

After modeling the game for the whole class, have students use their personal devices to access the game People’s Pie. Provide time for students to play the game together while taking notes with the People’s Pie Notes handout. When students successfully complete the game, they are given a completion certificate. If desired, have students “print” their certificate, and choose “save as PDF” so students can submit their certificate via email or through an LMS.


5 Minute(s)

Display slide 19, and introduce the Two-Minute Paper to students. Tell students they are going to individually respond to the slide’s essential question on the back of their Fiscal Policy Note Catcher. Use the timer on slide 19 to have students write for two minutes. Collect each student’s response to assess understanding of the lesson.