19 January, 2011

The Good, Fast, and Cheap Triangle

My husband once told me he begins all his lectures, each semester, with this image drawn on the board.  He is a professor in a college theatre program, and tells all his students that this triangle is one of the most important things to consider when producing a play.  He calls it (not surprisingly), "The Good, Fast, and Cheap Triangle."

The premise of the triangle is that you can have two points on the triangle, but never three.  That is,

Something may be good and fast, but it isn't cheap.
Something may be good and cheap, but it isn't fast.
Something may be fast and cheap, but it isn't good.

And as all you teachers, homeschool-ers, and parents know, this triangle also comes into play with regard to educational materials. Ask any teacher you meet and s/he will most likely say much of his or her paycheck could easily be spent on materials for the classroom.  Every teacher I know tried to avoid this pitfall, but sometimes it is so difficult!  What is one to do?

1.  Plan ahead, so you have time to make your own materials.  Yup, this is good advice even if I don't always take it myself.  I confess that I am forever thinking of great ideas at the very last minute.

2.  Share with other teachers and homeschool parents.   My partner teacher and I swapped all sorts of things last year.  We would trade a few practical life activities (on their trays and everything) and art project materials too, a couple of times a month.  It was wonderful.

3.  Utilize any local groups "traveling trunks."  Our local nature center for example, has traveling nature trunks that are available for check out.  (Here is the link to what they have available.)  Our local Early Childhood Center also has materials available.  Check out libraries too!

4.  Use the internet!  Look for free printable files on blogs and web sites.  (I have quite a few on this blog!  Look for the Free Downloads tab to see the list.)  If you create your own digital files, maybe you could swap one with a friend.  Consider joining an online swap.  (That has been wonderful for me.  I now have some lovely materials and some lovely friends to boot!)

5.  And last but but not least, if you find something wonderful and you can afford it, seriously consider just buying it.  I have, too often to mention, spent more money trying to "make something myself" than it would have cost me to just buy it in the first place.

None of these are perfect solutions to the good, fast, and cheap triangle, but they might make finding the perfect classroom materials, a little bit easier.  Here's hoping!

Good luck with your materials!


  1. Neat concept! Never thought of it in these terms.
    So true though...
    Have a nice rest of your week,

  2. Hm...this triangle is so true! You can apply it to (almost) every sphere of life.

    And I've learned my lesson in making long red rods - it had cost me much more then if I've purchased it :/ After that adventure, I really do have my eyes open


Thank you for your comments. They are always much appreciated. : )