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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Financial Literacy: Making Sense of Dollars and Cents

The economic crisis signals that schools need to get in the business of teaching money matters.
By Edutopia Staff
Credit: Wesley Bedrosian

Every day, headlines bring us troubling news of our increasingly fragile and faltering economy. The largest collapse of financial institutions since the Great Depression ricochets across the globe, as investors, politicians, and homeowners scramble to make ends meet over expanding chasms of debt.

When the economy rides and stumbles on $700 billion promises -- and pocket money vanishes with a few clicks of a mouse -- it becomes increasingly urgent to teach young people the basic survival skills of personal finance. It is today's students who will pay for yesterday's poor choices. Their journey through a slowing economy will be greatly enhanced by learning how to spend wisely, maintain good credit, and take out safe, reasonable loans.

In this special report, Edutopia has gathered a variety of insights and tools on financial education that will equip your students for the years ahead. From student entrepreneurship to student-run credit union branches, the topics in this collection of articles and other resources cover hands-on activities and real-world projects in economics, money management, and business skills. Here's hoping little Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- with some early lessons learned -- won't repeat their parents' mistakes.

Comments (25)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Martin K. Elliott, Ph.D.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I began teaching adults ( and H S students) basic algebra and geometry 8 years ago. As an engineer, I found out what was "broken"...i.e., why the students had difficulty with math.
The students were mathematically illiterate! I then initiated a requirement for each student to write their own Personal Math Dictionary (PMD).
I am know writing an Instruction Manual: "Money Matters...Math as a Foreign Language"...
When one understands the vocabulary of math and money...then, informed and appropriate financial decisions can be made. (Unless "greed over comes fear" of losing the money!)

Please feel free to call on me for any assistance in creating an fiscally informed population!

Lynn Lent's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Dr. Elliott,

With all due respect to you and admiration for what you are doing, I am an editor and want to point out to you that you have a typo in your statement. You said, "I am know writing an Instruction Manual...." It should say, "I am now writing an Instruction Manual...." I accept the change in language brought about by texting, i.e. shortcuts. But I find it hard to accept downright errors in spelling, usage, or old-fashioned mechanics. Perhaps you are interested in having your manual edited. Please contact me if you are interested in my help.


San Rafael, CA

Dave's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Dear Lynn Lent,

With all due respect to you, I am a web developer and want to point out to you that you have mistakenly used three period characters when you should have used an ellipsis character. I accept the changes in typography brought about by online communication, i.e. limited availability of typefaces. However, I find it hard to accept outright errors in character selection.

Luckily, minor errors in blog comments are inconsequential, and most readers are able to focus on content without writing snarky grammar-, spelling-, and editing-police replies. (Oh, that you and I would have such restraint!)



Mark Gura's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We produce a podcast series at Fordham University's Graduate School of Education titled "Talking Fin Lit" - This is free professional development content on Financial Literacy Education - The series covers the subject comprehensively, offering many free resources teachers can use with their students... join us at http://www.talkingfinlit.org/

Zoe Weil's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I fully agree that young people need to become financially literate. School ought to provide education that includes the acquisition of skills, and I believe one of the contributing factors to our current economic collapse is the lack of financial literacy among our population. We have all been schooled in math, science, literature, and social studies, but few of us have been schooled in basic economic knowledge and personal financial responsibility.

But financial literacy isn't enough. While it's crucial that we educate the next generation to understand that what they spend money on influences their future economic stability, it's also critical that they understand that their spending represents their vote for the world they want to see. It's all well and good to teach youth not to buy an SUV on credit that they may be unable to pay back, but we also need to raise their awareness of the effects of an SUV on the environment. Along with understanding the consequences of spending their money at the school cafeteria on lots of sodas, burgers, and candy (rather than eating fewer calories and bringing lunch from home so they can save money for more important future purchases) we need to educate students to understand the consequences of such food purchases on their health, other species, and the environment. Along with helping youth to realize the value of thrift for their future success rather than strive to buy endless expensive brand name clothes and shoes, we also need to teach them how to analyze advertising to free themselves from the insidious influences of commercial messages as well as to help them understand the consequences of outsourced, made-in-overseas-sweatshop products on other people and the environment.

In other words, let's not stop with personal financial literacy; let's make sure our students understand how our choices about spending effect everyone: ourselves, other people, other species, and the earth.


Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education

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