Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Students Managing Money

By Saler Axel, RME Research Assistant

What are some helpful, creative ways to clarify your students’ understanding of money? What activities can you implement into your teaching to help teach the value of money and instill an appreciation and respect for it?

Several years ago, I read Check Out These Checkbooks: Real Banking for the Classroom in a 1999 edition of Teaching Children Mathematics by Abby Tuch. She established a classroom store filled with goodies that her third grade students could save for and purchase with play-money. They students learned to write checks and account for how much money they had by balancing their checkbooks. As a second grade teacher, I incorporated many of Tuch’s ideas into my own lessons and created a unit that promoted the discovery of money management through on-going life skills and mathematics exploration. Here is another similar unit plan from Scholastic called Creating a Classroom Economy Unit Plan.

By implementing a similar unit in your own classroom, your students can become more familiar with various denominations and learn how to save and spend responsibly. They will become familiar with words such as ledger, deposit, debit, balance, account, saving, spending, and banking. Students will use play-money, learn to keep an accurate and updated balance sheet, receive a salary to work classroom jobs, and frequently shop at the classroom store.

Before beginning this unit, your students should be familiar with dollars, coins, and multi-digit addition and subtraction. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics in second grade states that students should be able to “solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies using $ and ¢ symbols appropriately.” The activities in this unit will help you as an educator pose real-life, project-based word problems to which your students can relate.

Image from Scholastic: My Classroom Economy
Ready to begin? Introduce money-management to your students. Ask them to contribute ideas and discus why it’s important to both save and spend responsibly. Talk to them about what people use money for (buy groceries, buy a home, buy toys, etc.) and what may happen if someone spends all the money they have.

Pass out the budget worksheets that your students will use throughout this unit’s duration. Teach them how to fill it in appropriately and revisit how to correctly calculate money problems through multi-digit addition and subtraction. Students can practice filling in their budget sheets with answers they calculate from presented word problems, as discussed in the CCSS. Spend several lessons teaching word problems and how to correctly use the budget sheets so you can assess their readiness for the next step … the classroom store!

The store is this unit’s highlight! Your students will love shopping for new trinkets that they can take home. The opportunity to spend at the store encourages students to evaluate how much money they have and determine whether they should shop now or save for later! When students make purchases, they must correctly count out the appropriate tender. To challenge your shoppers, you may require them to pay using specific tender (only using quarters or using the least amount of coins possible, etc.).

Image from Scholastic: My Classroom Economy
To earn spending money, all students work at classroom jobs for a set salary. Jobs may include routine “classroom jobs” such as black-board eraser and line leader, or more unit specific jobs like the store cashier. Explain to your students that everyone needs to work responsibly and carefully, just like in the real workforce. At your discretion, jobs may rotate every couple of weeks. Students should be paid (receiving play money) on a weekly basis, document their earnings using the budget sheets, and store their money in a designated place. A great partner activity: ask students to review a partner’s budget sheet and double check that all savings match the sheet’s total line.

Just because this unit runs smoothly for a few weeks doesn’t mean it has to end. I ran this unit year after year from Thanksgiving to summer vacation by increasing the mathematical expectations. I began introducing store coupons (ex: 25% off) which students could earn for good behavior (a great classroom management tool). These coupons were fun to earn and required computation with percentages later in the school year. Store sales are also ways to have students calculate adjusted prices before purchasing items.

Where can you locate enough merchandise to stock your store? Don’t be afraid to ask parents, administrators, or companies in your community for help! Ask parents to donate items with company logos or keep your unit in mind when they’re at the dollar store. Great store merchandise includes pencils, erasers, stickers, children's books, pencil sharpeners, bracelets, small notepads, coloring books, puzzle books, hats, or t-shirts.

Summing It All Up
By implementing a fun monetary unit into your classroom, you can challenge your students’ mathematics skills and knowledge of money while also teaching important life skills such as saving and spending responsibly. What are ways you can add even more educational excitement to this unit? 

Tuch, A. (1999). Check out these checkbooks: Real-life banking for the classroom. Teaching Children Mathematics, 5(7) 422-429.

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