Teaching with Jim McClain’s Solution Squad, Part 3

Students continued their writing today, and I promised them that I would do the activity right along with them. I guess their thought is if we suffer together, it’s more bearable?

Since they’ve moved past the organized list phase into the paragraph writing phase, I modeled what I think their paragraphs should look like.

What I Would Do with One Billion Dollars


Mr. McClain


The first thing I would do with one billion dollars is take care of my family’s needs. I would give each person one million dollars. That’s a million dollars each to my brother, my brother’s four children, and my sister’s two children. My sister passed away in 2012 so I would form a trust for her children administered by an attorney. That’s $7,000,000.


My wife’s family will get the same thing. That’s my father-in-law (even though he doesn’t need it. He’s a multimillionaire already), my mother-in-law, my wife’s three sisters, their husbands, and all of their children. I have eight nephews and nieces on her side of the family, so that’s a total of $16,000,000 more. Now that I have spent $23,000,000, I only have $977 million remaining. I’m going to have to spend carefully.

I’ll go ahead and take care of my aunts, uncles, and cousins while I’m at it. I have two aunts, two uncles, and eight cousins. $12,000,000 more out the door!

Friends? I have a few. I’ll give each of my 50 closest friends $1,000,000. Want to be my friend? I’ve spent $62,000,000 now, so I have $915,000,000 left.

My wife and daughter will get $100 million each. Now I have $715 million to spend.

I want the main focus of my money to be spent on promoting literacy so that kids can make good choices and think well. I will develop a publishing company that makes books and comics that kids want to read. I will not focus on turning a large profit on the publishing end, but if a property is optioned for film or television, those profits will go toward growing the company. I would hire as many veteran comic book creators as I could, especially those whose works inspired me when I was younger and are having trouble finding work. I want to give back to them the great joy I now experience because of them. I will invest $100 million in this company. I have $615 million remaining.

I will build two houses where my wife and I can divide our time. One will be on Mobile Bay, a single-level bay house on risers. It will have an elevator to get to the main floor. There will be a dock that leads out into the bay where I will keep a drawing table that I will have built into the structure. I’ll have a room built with a restroom and a small kitchen for snacks. There will be Wi-Fi too, of course. In the house itself, there will be a corner room that is round, with windows that encircle it at least 300 degrees to have a wide view of the bay. That will be my office. My wife will want a sewing/hobby room, so we’ll make another room like that on the opposite corner. We’ll have a large guest room, too, so friends can visit whenever they want.

The other house will be a cabin on a lake or river in northern Michigan. It will be a place we can go when hurricane season hits and evacuations sometimes become necessary. We can spend summer days there, away from the oppressive heat of Alabama, or we can visit in winter, enjoying gorgeous scenery and wildlife. We should keep a couple of snowmobiles there for recreation.  I think, all told, we would spend $5,000,000 on the two homes. That leaves $610,000,000.

I’ve never really cared about cars, so I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on any particular model. But there’s one exception. I would have a reproduction 1966 Batmobile made by Fiberglass Freaks. I don’t even know where I’d drive it. I just want one. They only cost about $200,000, but I want the math to be easy, so I’ll spend a million. $609,000,000 to go.

I want use $100,000,000 to set up a private school for nerds, called Gotham Academy. I want it to focus on imaginative pursuits. There will be no sports. I want to hire my nerdy friends to work there and pay them what they deserve. I still have $509 million to spend.

Before I essentially give away the rest of my money, I will prepare for the future. I will put $100,000,000 in an interest-bearing investment account, and only withdraw the interest each year to live on. Assuming a five percent return on investment, I will have $5,000,000 per year to last the rest of my life. Now I have $409 million to dispose of.


I don’t want to supervise the disbursement of charitable funds myself, so I am going to ask people I know to look after it for me. I have enough going on with my publishing company. I would have CAPS in Elkhart, Indiana work on child abuse prevention on a large scale. I would ask them to coordinate with a national agency to oversee the distribution of $200 million to help prevent child abuse. I was an abused child, so this cause is dear to me.

I would give another $100,000,000 to Families Through International Adoption. They helped us to adopt our daughter. I want to make it easier for people to make families as happy as ours is.

Another $100,000,000 goes to the American Cancer Society. Many of my family members have died from cancer and watching them die while writhing in pain is the hardest thing to do.

Well, it appears that I have nine million dollars just sitting around. I guess I’ll buy some comic books.

Notice how I wrote the large sums in millions. I wanted to show them how to vary the form of the numbers to keep them interesting. Otherwise, we’re just looking at zeroes all day every time. Some of these students had never seen numbers expressed that way at all, so that brought up an interesting discussion point. I only show them a few things as they’re doing their own writing. I don’t want them to simply copy what I do. Remember, the goal here is to find out stuff about them, but I also want them to understand that writing mathematics effectively is an important tool as well.

Next week: How Many Days Old Are You?