What Can You Do With This: Schrute Bucks

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[I set off a hydrogen bomb on my blog with that last WCYDWT (since redacted, so if you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t sweat it). Everything from a lousy audio transcode to Vimeo shutting down my account for violating its TOS. Sorry for the confusion.]

BTW: Let’s give it to Dan:

I thought it really demonstrated a more common error of classroom management: rewards are determined by the receiver, not the giver. Some punishments will be rewards to certain students and vice versa.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. i was honestly surprised that Schrute Bucks didn’t make it into the one video you made about the Office, since I thought it really demonstrated a more common error of classroom management: rewards are determined by the receiver, not the giver. Some punishments will be rewards to certain students and vice versa.

  2. I think the problem with this (and teachers who take the same approach) is that the reward is too distant and doesn’t feel real enough.

    Perfect example, one teacher who I know – who constantly had discipline problems with her class – offered a reward for students if they would keep on task and not talk during the week.

    Five minutes of free time at the end of the last class of the week.

    Five minutes.

    Big whoop.

    One the other hand, the school she was at used to do “Caught Being Good” passes – which the students could use to get out of class 5 minutes early to goto lunch. Teachers could choose not to accept them (either not accept them at all – or not today because we’re taking a test or something like that) – but most did.

    They went over very well – and while some kids didn’t care, and didn’t ever try to get them (they were handed out at the teacher’s discretion), the majority of the kids did.

    I can see a classroom teacher doing this – and saying if you get X number of “schrute bucks” you can get a homework pass, or something like that.

  3. Interesting, using this to discuss classroom management didn’t cross my mind until I saw the comments. I was thinking more along the lines of economics and currency.

  4. I can see a lot of parallels with this to my current classroom management system (which, I hope, has a much better rewards than Schrute’s–at least until my teaching coaches skewered my rewards for being too generous and offered no replacements–).

    I was thinking more instruction-wise when I first saw this. I could so use this to teach irony–it has all three types-verbal, dramatic, and situational. I would try to have students identify the types of irony in this clip.

  5. Management is an interesting take on this but I’d be more interested in ratio and proportion.

    Students could create their own currency and use ratio and proportion to show the conversion rates from say “Jovan Bucks” to US dollars, Euros, Yen, etc.

    Taking it a step further in this tenuous economy one could look at the relative cost of specific goods and services in their new currency and the currency of their native country or that of other interesting countries.

    Finally, for those of us who teach middle school we could review some percent skills by having students calculate their cost of taxes ( income and/or sales ).

  6. Interesting – different people see this – and think different things.

    I’m curious to know what Dan had in mind when he posted it.

  7. I would likely do something with the “cash value of currency” comment.

    This could lead into a discussion of melting, shaving, and the occasional effort to do away with the penny.

    If I wanted a really elaborate lesson I could do a simulation (including a bouncing price of metals) where students vie to make as much money as possible.

  8. I had my whole post planned out for the “Meredith” clip! Why was everyone in the office so mad at Michael? How do we communicate through body language? I was then going to pitch a lesson plan idea with denotation vs. connotation.

    In regard to this clip, I would definitely second everyone who said extrinsic vs. intrinsic rewards, conversions, and inflation. From an ELA point-of-view, I may compare it to a rebellion/revolution text (e.g. Horatio Hornblower, Tale of Two Cities, Les Miserables). How tenuous is Dwight’s power? What causes Dwight’s economy to falter?

  9. I think talking about the cash value (1/100) of a cent, and comparing that to the production cost. Which could lead to a project of picking a printer. Some have high starting costs (y-intersect/starting value) versus low average cost per page (slope/rate of change). Use the info that can be gathered online to write linear models for a few highly rated printers. Then given certain scenarios use the linear models to determine which printer would be a smarter buy (light home use, small office environment, large math deparment ect.)

  10. So a Schrute Buck has the value of the average coupon . . . interesting.

    Perhaps you could show this video as a way to introduce a unit or lesson on direct variation focusing on the equivencies of different monies around the world, like the Yen versus the Dollar or the English Pound, but make it more interesting and ask students to find out money denominations for not so common countries like the Ukraine or Congo or Dominican Republic.

    Then have them plan a trip around the world with a fixed amount of money. How could they maximize their spending based upon the US Dollar, or Yen, or Pound, or . . .

    How does the current economic crisis affect the US Dollar and its worth? How does this affect other nations’ monies?

    Great clip!

  11. I would go with trying do create a cost benefit analysis of the Schrute buck system, for instance he used a full 8 1/2 X11 sheet of paper that I would presume was photocopied on a copy machine. This would mean he would have used two reams of paper as well as a good bit of toner and his time

    So assuming that
    *paper is 10.00 a ream ( I know they are a paper company and probably get it cheaper.)
    *copy machine is 1.5 cents per sheet (this is actually a little low for the total operating costs for a copy machine.)
    *and someone has to reload the copy machine every ream taking 2.5 min of time how much time and money was spent in creating 1000 Schrute bucks.

    Is it worth it for an employee to creating counterfeit Schrute bucks?

  12. Then have them plan a trip around the world with a fixed amount of money.

    This was one of my best lessons back when I had an algebra class in a computer lab. The students made spreadsheets with a progressive set of formulas converting from one leg of a trip to the next.

    (Best comment from a student in that class, who just discovered how after you program the computer it does all the calculations for you: algebra is like cheating for math!)

  13. How about pose the question – Stanley says he’ll give a million Stanley bucks for Dwight to stop talking to him. What is the value to Stanley of shutting Dwight up? Cost, time, personal effort, etc.

  14. I’d move along Chris’s line of thought, naturally. The first thing I thought of was having students determine how Angela, Pam, Oscar, Stanley, and Andy feel about both Dwight and the Schrute Buck system. What evidence is there for their attitudes? None of them have too much screen time, so how did the actors/writers convey their stance on these issues so quickly? Can we do the same thing in writing? Can we create a situation where a character’s feelings come across in as few words as possible? Can we write a script where the same is the case? This is where denotation and connotation come in handy.

  15. A lot of interesting math projects here, none of which I think this video supports too well. What I mean is, just because you see a ship in a painting in the background of the scene, doesn’t mean it’s a good jump-off point for a discussion of oceanography.

    The math is just a head fake for me. The really relevant, powerful stuff is in Dan’s comment:

    … it really demonstrated a more common error of classroom management: rewards are determined by the receiver, not the giver. Some punishments will be rewards to certain students and vice versa.

    And Dwight’s stunned surprise that no one cares about his stupid worthless Schrute Bucks is the worst part. He lost all his credibility there, assuming he had any to begin with.

    Teach by Baxter’s Corollary: never assume anyone even cares.

  16. @dan
    Wow, I sense some negativity here. the media clip is out there as a jumping off point. Something that could be used in many ways, one of which might be to grab the students attention and then transition into a concept to be taught. Seems odd that there would be one right answer to something like this. Yep the rewards system is certainly a valid point, but should we all just parrot back the response that we liked best? If that’s the case then, I think the video is great at demonstrating a common error of classroom management. Come on who are we as the teacher to know what the students will see as a true reward.

    Is that better?

  17. Like I said, I dig the math projects and the clip is posted for your use so do whatever you want with my opinion. I’m saying that the classroom management angle is much less obscured than the math angle. It’s usable, of course. I wonder if there is a better clip to use for the same math concepts.

  18. What a great video! I have to admit that as a first year teacher, that could have been me in that video. I remember telling kids that if they did something, I would add 5 points on to their test grade. Of course, it didn’t mean squat to them and I didn’t understand. My husband (boyfriend at the time) told me what I was doing wrong. He said I was using something that would motivate me but didn’t motivate my kids. That was like an “aha” moment to me! How could I miss something so simple!

  19. Pat,

    That’s what I love about the “Caught Being Good” passes.

    Instructionally the last five minutes before they goto lunch is not the best time – so letting kids go early is not a big deal (at least, not from my standpoint).

    And it was like gold for the kids because then they could be at the front of the lunch line – so they didn’t have to waste their lunch time by standing in line.

    Some people have criticized it by saying “your sending the message that instructional time isn’t important” or “you should be maximizing your instructional time” – but I figure, look at reality – those last five minutes before lunch, kids aren’t focused anyways – let them have some good out of it – and they’ll also go out of their way to be good, and get a pass.

    I remember a call center that I worked at one summer – and their incentive for not taking sick days during the quarter was that your name would go into a drawing to win a free half day.

    And I thought – wow, that’s really stupid. I can not use a sick day – for a chance, just a chance – at getting a half day off.

    Or, I could just use my sick day, and take a whole day off.

  20. Someone help me out here. Is there ANY way this knowledge (and, more generally, my experience as a teacher) WON’T help me as a parent?

  21. @dan, re 23 and 25: teaching definitely helps hone the toolkit for parenting, with (at least) one noteworthy exception — when it’s your kid, there is no experience that I have found comparable to the breath-stopping, blinding love-care-hope-fear-pride I feel when I think about my daughter’s future.

    Ironically, one way that teaching helped me be a better parent is from seeing a lot of other parents — some having relationships I wanted to emulate, and others providing the opposite example. It also helped to listen to kids talk about things they care about — bot the actual things they cared about, but also the manner in which they talked about them.

    But, even though I was a teacher who cared a lot about the kids I taught, being a parent brings a whole different level of intensity.

    And, fwiw: a reaction of “Oh gross” is generally not a good jumping off point for pro-creative (or recreationally simulated pro-creative) behavior. Just thought you’d like to know.



  22. “Oh gross!” may not have been my first response to finding out I was going to be a parent, sliding down the dr.’s office wall like a blob of jello was!
    Being a parent made me a better teacher, so Dan, I have to assume it works the other way around too, when the time comes that is. :) Hm, imagine a “little Dan” bloggin’ away about learning his math facts! Warms the heart, it does.


  23. All my students are Stanley and they don’t care about Schrute bucks. However, I do surprise them every so often with a treat of doughnuts or cupcakes when they have been unusually productive. (I teach marketing and yearbook to high school kids in an inner city.)

  24. Lots of lovely pauses, interruptions, variations in volume and tone. For seventh grade, I’d give kids a bare-bones transcript of this in some kind of summative assessment on one of two things: punctuating dialogue, and/or effective use of verbs.

    (Why verbs? They pack more punch than even the sweetest adverb or adjective, and around about 7th grade kids are ready for synonym expansion, versus variations upon “He turned around guiltily. He turned around sadly. He turned around angrily,” blah blah blah.)

    Differentiation up: kids listen and transcribe the dialogue first, THEN punctuate/add appropriate effective verbs.

    Differentiation down: give basic verbs in the transcript, and have kids substitute. (or provide a bank of three for the same action, have them choose and defend their choice.)

    BTW, don’t you all dare even imply that parenting ISN’T gross, people.

  25. I will be using this as part of my 8th grade Shakespeare Unit:
    How do the modern script-writers convey irony and emotions through dialogue, body language, and tone.