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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Show Them The Money!

I made it all the way through high school without ever learning to balance a checkbook.

In fact~ it wasnt until my early twenties~ when I started my own business~ that I began to learn the all-important skills of tracking and saving money. If there is one place where our educational system falls short~ it is in the area of teaching young people to handle their finances. Its very possible for students to pass tests~ earn honor roll~ and receive diplomas without developing basic financial skills~ which they will use the rest of their lives.

To plug this hole~ I use several methods in my classroom to teach kids about money~ and Id like to share them with you.


Fifth-grade teacher~ Rafe Esquith~ in his book~ Teach Like Your Hair Is On Fire~ outlines a system he developed to teach his students about money. In brief~ students work classroom jobs to earn fake money and have to pay rent each month to sit at their desks. They can also earn bonus money by performing well on tests~ turning in homework~ and participating in extracurricular activities. However~ they can be fined for being rude~ forgetting homework and other infractions. At the end of the month~ the class takes part in an auction~ where students can spend extra money. Teachers can easily implement the system by printing the money on a computer and creating or buying ledgers from an office supply store. To learn more~ either you can read Esquiths book or you can e-mail me at [email protected]with questions.


I extend the economic system for my gifted fifth-grade class by giving them seed money and having them start their own businesses. They must spend money on rent~ advertising~ payroll and other expenses while striving to make a profit. Businesses include selling products such as hand-made crafts or items brought from home and student-needed services such as desk-cleaning. We have scheduled buying and selling times and discussions on how businesses are performing.


In past years~ my students have taken part in the Stock Market game~ where they learn how to buy and sell stocks and track what is happening in the market. The online game is offered free in some states (such as Florida~ where I teach). Students start out with $100~000 in virtual money and must invest that money in hopes of making more. For more information~ go to www.smgww.org/


To teach my students about history~ current events~ environmental problems and other issues~ we play a game called CRISIS~ where teams of students must operate their own countries. Daily challenges can involve terrorism attacks~ natural disasters~ and genocide~ however~ there is always one constant: money plays a big part. Teams receive money from collecting taxes~ but they quickly learn that there are limited funds~ and moves such as conflict with other countries~ can cost them millions of dollars.

There you have it. Four ways to incorporate the lessons of money in the classroom. I know that only scratches the surface when it comes to providing a financial education in our schools~ and that educators across the country have developed their own unique ways to provide these skills. Please visit this topic at the Innovative Teaching Group at http://community.educationworld.comcontent/show-them-money-0?gid=NTEyMQ==and share how you show your students the money.