Maths and Money: Engaging students in real world mathematics


Many children are consumers of financial services from a young age. According to Thomson (2014) it’s not uncommon for them to have accounts with access to online payment facilities or to use mobile phones during the primary school years, and it’s clear that financial literacy and mathematics skills would be of benefit when using such products. Prior to leaving school, young people often face decisions about issues such as car insurance, savings products and overdrafts. In fact, by the age of 15 to 18, many young people face one of their most important financial decisions: that is, whether or not to invest in higher education. Financial education programs for young people can be essential in nurturing sound financial knowledge and behaviour in students from a young age (Ministerial Council for Education Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs, 2011).

This week (14th – 20th March) is Global Money Week, initiated by Child & Youth Finance International. What’s that got to do with maths and engagement? When integrated and contextualised to suit students’ needs and interests, mathematics and financial literacy education can be highly engaging for students. My current study into the use of Financial Literacy as a tool to engage students with mathematics has highlighted how teaching financial literacy through the mathematics curriculum improves students’ understanding of mathematical concepts, their engagement with mathematics and how important it is for all students to:

  1. Understand the importance and value of money;
  2. Recognise the mathematics that underpins consumer and financial literacy;
  3. Engage in real-world projects and investigations relating to consumer and financial literacy to understand how mathematics is applied in everyday decisions that could influence life opportunities; and
  4. Learn about consumer and financial literacy via the mathematics curriculum.

In this research project I worked with teachers from four different schools across the state of NSW. Each of the schools as situated in low socio-economic areas and each was a unique context. Initially the teachers were asked to explore the MoneySmart  teaching Units of Work to find and teach one that suited the needs of their learners and to familiarise themselves with the teaching of consumer and financial literacy concepts, including the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework  alongside the NSW mathematics curriculum. Following this, the research team worked with the teachers to develop context-specific units of work that responded to the needs and interests of the students in their classrooms. The results, which I will report on in forthcoming blogs and publications, were inspiring.

The teachers involved in the project went from knowing very little about teaching consumer and financial literacy and where it fit within the mathematics curriculum to disseminating their knowledge across and beyond their school communities. The children became ‘experts’ at financial matters and a range of rich projects emerged that included a fully functioning Money Museum, a Market Day that involved a range of ‘small businesses’, and the planning, financing and building of a school ‘buddy bench’. Once school had every single class involved in individual projects, and one class planned and financed their end-of-year excursion.

Over the coming months I will share some of the exciting work from this project and the project findings on this blog. In the meantime, consider how you might celebrate Global Money Week in your classroom.

References:

Ministerial Council for Education Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs. (2011). National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework. from http://www.mceecdya.edu.au/mceecdya/2011_financial_literacy_framework_homepage,34096.html

Thomson, S. (2014). Financing the future: Australian students’ results in the PISA 2012 Financial Literacy assessment. https://http://www.acer.edu.au/files/PISA_2012_Financial_Literacy.pdf

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