With the state of America's economic system today, it is even more important that we train our students how to be personally responsible for their finances. I don't remember getting any formal training in this area when I was in school and chances are many of you had similar experiences. Isn't school supposed to prepare us for the real world? Could we be missing an important element in our math curriculums?
Elementary & Middle School Personal Finance
Obviously high school is a great place to incorporate financial education into the curriculum but I believe it's never too early to start. There are many banks that have programs for elementary aged students where they will actually come into your classroom and teach your students about saving money.
When I taught in a resource room pull-out program for elementary and middle school students, I had an incentive program where students could earn quarters (I used play money) each day. Each student had his/her own piggy bank and could save their quarters up to buy prizes such as pencils, erasers, books, etc. My older elementary and middle school students had their own checkbooks in which they would deposit their quarters (I was also the bank) and later write a check to me for the item they wanted to purchase. The students really enjoyed this activity and it didn't take up a lot of our class time. We would dedicate the last 5 minutes or so of our class time to distribute the quarter, make deposits, or write checks. My local bank donated the checkbooks and piggy banks and even threw in some small white boards for us to use.
Personal Finance in High School
It is vital that we emphasize how to be responsible with our finances. Giving our students the opportunity to be debt free is a gift. Once we emphasize this key point we can then teach about other financial opportunities such as investing. Robert Kiyosaki's "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" is an interesting book that focuses on investing. He also has some fun games for students to learn about investing such as his "Cash Flow" games. And don't forget about the old classics like Monopoly! There is a wonderful free on-line budgeting tool called Mint.com that allows you to track spending and budget. It gives you monthly charts with budget updates and helps you organize and categorize your spending. These are just a few ideas to get you started teaching personal finance to your students. If you have other ideas or resources you'd like to share with educators on this topic feel free to leave a comment below!