My students always struggle with integers and more specifically, negative numbers. I am spending extra time this year preparing to teach it as well as resolving to come up with a good real-life activity. The difficulty with negative numbers is that it is actually a pretty abstract concept. What does -5 mean? You can't give me -5 apples. If i have -$100 dollars in the bank there is no money in the bank for me, it might as well be 0 - except that it has meaning. My goal is to get the students to understand what a negative means. It is money I owe in this case. The -100 represents an idea that whatever moneys i get in the future is already minus 100 since i currently have that sitting in the negative. But then you throw temperature in there which mirrors more of a counting number line than a concept. I think this is why it is easy just to teach the rules of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing negative numbers and skip over the part about what these numbers mean or represent.

A couple years ago I tried a real world math budgeting activity where they would have expenses and make income and they had to keep a checkbook. The students loved it, but it didn't emphasis the adding and subtracting of negative numbers like I hoped. I think I am going to try and work on a credit card and shopping activity that will emphasize at least both the adding and subtracting of negative numbers. Here's hoping it turns out well...