Project-Based Learning (PBL)

Financial Literacy for Elementary Students

Ohio’s 2011 Milken National Educator Award, Brian Page, shares financial literacy resources for elementary students.

November 18, 2011

Teaching elementary students about money can be challenging. Often, students cannot conceptualize what money is, let alone all of the complicated financial tools that have become a part of our everyday lives.

With so many financial games available online, it is tempting to leap straight into simulations like the stock market game that appear to be engaging, but fail to address the appropriate foundation for teaching money management. So why is a financial education necessary in our schools?

As I have written elsewhere, most people want more than they can afford, and are unwilling to give up something now to save and buy what they really need later. Evidence ranging from the famous marshmallow study, our national savings rate, and a national debt that grew even in times of economic prosperity are compelling examples. Recognizing the problem and understanding the challenge is only half the battle. Addressing how a parent or educator helps shape a child's future financial behavior is necessary.

Elementary Financial Literacy Standards

There are Personal Finance National Standards for elementary grades. Jump$tart, which is a coalition of about 150 national organizations that share an interest in advancing financial literacy among students in pre-kindergarten through college, worked with their partners to write National Standards. These standards are a perfect reference point for elementary teachers passionate about incorporating financial literacy into their lessons.

Urgent Need

As my friend Dan Kadlec pointed out in a recent story with Time, Arne Duncan just said, "As important as reading and math and social studies and science are, I think today more than ever financial literacy has to be part of that. To continue to have a population that is relatively illiterate in these matters, I think has real negative consequences to our democracy." As Kadlec noted, there has yet to be any real action behind this thinking.

Resources for Elementary Financial Literacy

For those of you eager to bring this to your classroom, check out this lesson (downloadable PDF) that my high school Personal Finance students used to teach our entire third grade about what money is, and why they should save it.

Another resource you can rely on that introduces key financial literacy and entrepreneurship concepts is BizWorld. (Full disclosure: I sit on their board.) They have wonderful classroom resources, and they also have a program called BizCamp. If you are lucky enough to make BizCamp a reality for your students, this can be a game-changer for their lives.

In my next two pieces, I will provide lesson guidance for the middle school and high school years.

If you are passionate about financial literacy and want to collaborate with fellow educators to bring personal finance into your classroom, please join us on Twitter for our next #FinEdChat on Wednesday, December 7th from 8:30-9:00 pm. Please feel free to vote for our next topic in advance of the chat.

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  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • Financial Literacy
  • Math
  • 3-5 Upper Elementary

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