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Technology in the Classroom Tools for Financial Literacy Month

Jacqui Murray

When students graduate from high school, many enter the working world where they are expected to balance budgets, pay bills, and submit rent and car payments on time. All of these expenses must be paid from whatever money they get from the job(s) they find after graduation. The world expects them to pay these critical bills before eating out, buying clothes, or entertaining themselves. That's not as easy as it sounds. Most new jobholders never had to think about costs vs. revenue, instead relied on parents to keep a roof over their head, heat and AC turned on, and gas in the car (and a car in the driveway). Needless to say, paying these essential bills may be daunting, even confusing. The good news is: Half of the nation’s schools require a financial literacy course. The bad news is it's not mandatory.

Last year, I published a list of eight great technology in the classroom financial literacy sites for grades 3-12. Now, just in time for April's Financial Literacy Month, the business world has released an impressive list of additional technology in the classroom resources to help teens see through the murkiness of financial independence. During April, give students at least a few hours to visit one or more of these excellent technology in the classroom websites:

Admongo

Age Group: Middle School

Through this interactive video game, students learn to identify advertising and understand its messages with the goal of becoming informed, discerning consumers. To win the game, they will have to answer questions like, "Who is responsible for the ad?", "What is the ad actually saying?", and "What does the ad want me to do?" For educators and parents, Admongo includes tools like videos, lesson plans, printed materials, downloads, and alignment with state standards.

Admongo is put out by the Federal Trade Commission, which also offers two other well-received games, one called "You Are Here" about consumer education at the mall and one called "Spam Scam Slam" about spam.

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Be Your Own Boss

Age Group: Teens and Preteens

Kids pick a business they would like to start and try to grow it by making wise financial decisions. They choose a car wash, a comic book publisher, or a dog-walking service. Then they decide if they want a partner, what the company name will be, how to market it, and more. Choices are explained in kid-friendly language before they're made. To assist in decisionmaking, students can watch videos, consult experts. Each smart (and not-so-smart) decision will determine the business's economic success.

This is part of a PBS collection of resources on economic issues that affect kids as they grow up.

Coffeeshop Game

Age Group: Middle School

Players set up a coffee shop and make as much money as they can in 14 days. To succeed they must wisely buy ingredients, choose a popular recipe, and set an agreeable price. When that's done, the doors are open for business and players see if they made good decisions. The site includes Common Core Math Standards addressed with play.

Younger kids can select related games running businesses like a Lemonade Stand, a hotel, a shopping mall, and more.

Develop Good Credit Habits

Age Group: Middle School

In this game-based simulation, students discover the secrets to developing good credit habits and learn how long it can take to pay off a credit card balance. The objectives are to maintain a good credit rating by making payments on time while accumulating as many consumer goods and services as possible.

This game is part of a larger collection offered by the Council for Economic Education to help students understand the economics associated with running their lives. Other units include "Getting out of debt" and "Debit cards vs. credit cards."

How the Stock Market Works

Age Group: High School

With this free real-time streaming stock market game, students set up accounts or join an existing group. They invest virtual cash, research their strategy with more than 100 videos and tutorials, and compete against classmates and the world to see how successful they would be if they were using their money.

There are lots of online stock market games (I included a different one last year).  This one is used by 10,000 schools each year and 350,000 individuals. It also includes a teacher's guide, a series of lesson plans, and the Common Core standards addressed.

Living Wage Calculator

Age Group: Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School

Put out by MIT, Living Wage Calculator estimates the cost of living in your community or region. The calculator lists typical expenses, cost of living, and typical wages. Students start by selecting their state, county, or metropolitan area, and then evaluate costs vs. expenses in that area. Older students can also read articles on living wages through the United States.

iOS Apps

Because more often than not, 18-24 year olds are on a mobile device rather than a computer, here are six apps that can be played from anywhere:

  1. Adventure Capitalist -- With the free app, students hire employees, purchase cutting-edge upgrades, dominate the market, and attract investors to boost profits.
  2. Bankaroo – Using this free virtual bank for kids, students learn to manage their allowance while saving for goals. To track learning, they earn badges for their accomplishments. This app works on desktops as well as mobile devices.
  3. Motion Math – As students struggle to run their own pizzeria, they must balance budgets, think proportionally, buy ingredients, design the pizzas, and sell to customers. The app also includes which Common Core Math Standards are addressed by the gameplay.
  4. Savings Spree -- Students learn how the choices they make each day can add up to big savings or expenses depending on their spending decisions. Kids see how they can save for short-term goals while investing for future needs.
  5. Time is Money – This free Chrome add-on converts prices on a webpage to hours worked.

The importance of financial literacy can't be overstated. Rather than introduce one game from this collection during a class unit on personal economics, have students play throughout the school year, reinforcing prior learning, scaffolding knowledge, and self-reporting their progress. Set one game aside to play at the end of the year as a summative assessment. Not only will students appreciate their financial literacy, so will their parents.


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of more than 100 ed-tech resources, including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in ed-tech, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on ed-tech topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning. Read Jacqui’s debut tech thriller, To Hunt a Sub.