Jan 21, 2024

Math Monday: Make Taxes Interactive with Desmos Classroom Activities

Does the median American pay more in sales tax or income tax? Find out in this Desmos Classroom Activity that illustrates how different taxes impact people based on their income level. This interactive will level up your class discussions about progressive, regressive, and flat taxes!

Curious about Desmos Classroom? Don't miss out on our Virtual PD Tech Tools: Desmos Interactive Math Builder TODAY at 4 pm Pacific.


The Activity: Exploring Tax Rates by Income Level and Tax Type

In this activity, students interact with a graph of average tax rates by income level. The solid black line at the top shows the total effective tax rate at each income level. So, for example, the median American will pay about 24% of their income in taxes.

But Americans don’t just pay one type of tax. Students explore how that total effective tax rate is broken down into sales taxes, payroll taxes, income taxes, corporate and property taxes, and estate taxes.


Screen recording of a section of the Desmos activity. A graph of tax rate at different income levels is shaded to show sales tax, income tax, payroll tax, corporate and sales tax, and estate tax


After more exploration, students apply what they’ve learned to categorize each tax type as progressive, regressive, or proportional (flat).


Screenshot from the Desmos activity, where students are sorting each tax type into progressive, regressive, or proportional

More Desmos Classroom Activities on Taxes 

Simplify teaching taxes with Desmos - these engaging activities help students dig into a complicated topic to make it visual and intuitive. Find them in NGPF's Financial Algebra Desmos Classroom Collection.


About the Author

Kathryn Dawson

Kathryn (she/her) is excited to join the NGPF team after 9 years of experience in education as a mentor, tutor, and special education teacher. She is a graduate of Cornell University with a degree in policy analysis and management and has a master's degree in education from Brooklyn College. Kathryn is looking forward to bringing her passion for accessibility and educational justice into curriculum design at NGPF. During her free time, Kathryn loves embarking on cooking projects, walking around her Seattle neighborhood with her partner and dog, or lounging in a hammock with a book.

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