Start Your School Year by Teaching Your Kids about Money – They’ll Learn Math Too!
A Note From The Teacher
by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.
This Month’s Topic:Teaching Kids to
Manage Money – Learn Math Skils
Start Your School Year by Teaching Your Kids about Money
These days, every parent has seen the variety of math skills that children are expected to master at earlier and earlier ages. From untangling multi-step word problems to solving complicated algorithms, children are learning more and more computational math than ever before. Money skills- working with manipulating sums of money- is one of the many skills that children learn in school that certainly have implications in the real world. In these economic times, it is more important than ever to teach children sound economic skills that go beyond the classroom.
While most schools are terrific at teaching addition and subtraction of dollars and cents, classrooms are less likely to teach your child about savings, being economically responsible, and getting the full value of their money. For those things, kids still need to rely on guidance at home to bring their school and home experiences together.
The beginning of a new school year is a perfect opportunity to devise a plan with your child that will help them improve their math skill and teach them about the real uses of money, such as earning, budgeting, and saving. By combining these skills, they will see that what they are learning in school has important applications in the real world. By beginning a new family initiative such as this at the beginning of the school year, you can reinforce those skills over the entire year. Here are some ideas for bringing home and school learning together, with some ideas for reinforcing math skills, too:
With your child, make an agreement that consists of a list of chores they will do for a specific amount of money. Make a list of these chores to be checked off daily (or weekly); each check should have a value, so that if chores aren’t completed, the payment goes down. In your discussion, make a contract for this agreement, so that chores can be changed only after a specific period of time, and only after negotiations between you both. This makes system of cooperation makes children more responsible for the decisions they make and teaches them that they must be persistent over time with the responsibilities they have.
Math skills reinforcer: Have children work with you on “pay day” to calculate the value of their work for the week. Have them calculate the amount they earned, minus any missing checks.
- Give your child a simple “deposit/ withdrawal” (or “add to” and “take away” for younger children) form to keep track of their money as they continue to earn or spend. This not only teaches children that it is always important to keep track of what they have, but also introduces them to vocabulary they need to know in life as they begin to do their own banking.
Math skills reinforcer: Have your child add or subtract amounts that they add to or spend from their savings, only allowing them to use a calculator to check their answers once it is done manually first.
Agree on a specific percentage or amount that must be put into a savings account each week or month. Children need learn the value of saving their money instead of giving in to the temptation to spend it all at once. By working with your child to create an agreement to put a specific amount of money away for the future, you will be encouraging a lifelong habit of saving. Go to your local bank together in order to set up a savings account for your child; banks have different options available for setting up a savings program for children, so be sure to speak to a service representative about your options.
Math skills reinforcer: By agreeing on a certain percentage, your child can calculate exactly how much they need to save and how much is theirs to keep. Younger children can use easier amounts to compute, such as a half or a quarter of the earnings; older kids can use percentages, such as 33%, when calculating. By having your child determine their savings contribution themselves, they not only practice a life skill, but a computational skill as well.
- Allow your child to spend their personal money. If your child is contributing to their savings account and still manages to save enough money to purchase extras, allow them to make decisions on how they spend their money. Do they want the newest fad toy that you think will break quickly? Consider letting them buy it and see the results. Kids often find out that items are not always worth what they seem to be on TV, and soon they learn to save their money for better things. When things go wrong with an item purchased, instead of offering to replace the item or give them money for it, have a discussion about making careful purchases in the future. This leads children to be more conscious consumers instead of allowing themselves to be tricked into buying every new item they see. Of course, if your child wants to purchase something that is completely against you family rules or values, you still have the right to say no; but don’t forget to have a true discussion about it, with reasons why you are saying no as well as possible options.
Math skills reinforcer: Is there a specific toy or item your child is saving for? Use estimation skills to have your child plan on how long it will take them to earn enough money. Also, teach them to comparison shop by looking at advertisements or in stores to find the best price for the same item. Finding the best value for their money is an important life skill.
- Find some opportunities for earning “bonus bucks”. Everyone loves the opportunity to earn an unexpected bonus every now and then. Consider tying small bonuses to improved school performance on a report card, getting good reports over a few weeks, or doing homework without complaining for a whole month. These bonuses should be special and separate from their regular earnings, and should not be extremely large. However, consider allowing your child to choose how they use their entire bonus themselves- what part of it they save and what part they spend. By seeing the choices they make with their money, you will be able to estimate their overall money sense; over time, you may well see positive changes in how they use their funds. Be sure not to give bonuses weekly, or even in a very predictable pattern; then they become nothing more than a part of the paycheck. Rather, by rewarding things intermittently your child learns to value those infrequent windfalls and learns what to do when they happen.
Math skills reinforcer: Have your child discuss with you how they plan to spend their bonus. Remember, this shouldn’t be a time when they are seeking your approval for their plan. Rather, they should be able to explain to you what they are thinking about and what they are choosing to do. This will teach children to think through more complex problems and explain them to others, skills which are often required in math classes. As a bonus for you, this discussion will also allow you to understand their thought processes and maturity level about the money they have.
Dealing with money issues is a challenging feat for adults to master, even before helping to educate children. Not sure on financial matters yourself? Start your own “back to school” learning by looking to your local library to read up on areas that interest you such as investing, savings, and other financial matters. Then use your new knowledge to build your child’s financial skills at a level that is appropriate for them to understand. By doing this, you not only build your own skills, but raise your child’s financial experience as well, building a lifelong skill that many adults lack. By taking school skills one step further in the home, you will help your child create a more successful future.
Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, and successful school year!!
"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings.
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