Texas Mathematics Teacher Spring/Summer 2022 - 26

Financial Literacy in the Primary Grades: Investing in Students' Futures
Lindsay A. Gold
In 2008, President George W. Bush recognized the
need for financial literacy instruction in schools, and
thus created the President's Advisory Council on
Financial Literacy. The Council reported that in order
to improve financial literacy in grades PK-12, financial
education must be mandated for all students in all
schools (President's Advisory Council on Financial
Literacy, 2008). Texas has been ahead of the curve
in response to providing financial education to their
students by investing in implementing a set of financial
literacy standards for Grades K-12. But how does this
compare with the rest of the country? A mixed-methods
research approach was used in Ohio examine teachers'
perspectives regarding the curriculum and instruction on
financial literacy in kindergarten through second grade.
The findings concluded that K-2 teachers see the value in
teaching financial literacy concepts and skills, but are not
confident in their implementation. This article uses the
findings from this study to explore ways that teachers,
nationwide, can easily integrate financial literacy into their
primary mathematics classrooms.
Introduction
The purpose of my study was to research whether K-2
teachers saw significance in teaching financial literacy
concepts and skills, whether they felt their students were
cognitively capable of developing such concepts and
skills, and what, if any, financial literacy concepts and
skills are being taught (Gold, 2021). Though in the past,
teaching financial literacy surfaced in the middle and high
school grade levels, many of the core financial concepts
(such as spending and saving) were not consistently
covered in elementary grades (Collins & Odders-White,
2015). However, it is my belief that unless schools provide
a coherent financial education opportunity to students
from an early age, children will continue to struggle to
understand the value of money. This can consequently
hinder them from maturing into financially literate adults.
So what is financial literacy? The President's Advisory
Council on Financial Literacy (2008) defined financial
literacy as " the ability to use knowledge and skills to
manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of
financial well-being " (p. 9). At the K-2 level, I see financial
literacy as referring to the financial concepts and skills
that students need to achieve on their path to becoming a
financially literate adult. These skills include performing
basic mathematical operations related to money, such as
coin identification, sorting, and counting; and concepts
that require a deeper understanding beyond fundamental
memorization, such as saving, spending, and borrowing.
Research Study
My study used a mixed methods research design
consisting of a two-phase exploratory sequential
approach. Phase 1 consisted of teacher interviews to gain
a variety of perspectives. From the emerging themes,
a survey instrument was created for Phase 2. Seven
K-2 teachers were interviewed to collect data on their
perceptions for teaching financial literacy.
26 | Spring/Summer 2022
Texas Mathematics Teacher
From these interviews, a 37-question instrument was
distributed throughout Ohio and 262 participants
completed the survey.
The data showed that while K-2 teachers saw value in the
teaching of financial literacy concepts and skills, they were
unsure about what topics to teach and how to teach them.
Many of the teachers reported teaching coin identification
(82.4%) and counting money (87.0%) as skills being
taught in K-2. Some were also addressing sorting coins
by attribute (59.5%), exchanging coins and bills for equal
value (39.3%), and even making change (27.1%), though
this response was mainly from second grade teachers.
The financial concepts were much less prevalent than the
skills. Saving and spending were the only concepts that
displayed around 50% of the teachers instructing on them
in the classroom. These concepts were, once again, mostly
selected by second grade teachers (Gold, 2021).
What Does This Mean for K-Grade 2 Teachers?
Through my research, I have learned that financial
literacy needs to be taught early and often. Research
shows that many advocate for addressing financial
literacy in the early elementary years, if not sooner
(Birbili & Kontopoulou, 2015). The Credit Union National
Association (2015) states that,
Children learn about money from many sources.
Long before they enter school, they observe adults
using money and buying things. They watch
television daily and see thousands of commercials
each year. Like it or not, money is a part of your
preschooler's life. (para. 5)
One difficulty facing teachers is that they need ideas
and resources for incorporating financial literacy into an
already overflowing K-2 curriculum. Although there are
financial literacy curricula and programs that exist, many
researchers agree that " effective programs for young
children infuse financial literacy concepts and practices
throughout the curriculum and teach them in a crosscurricular
way " (Birbili & Kontopoulou, 2015, p. 49). I
strongly believe that the teaching of financial literacy
should be multidisciplinary and authentic.
Integrated Activities Aligned with Texas Essential
Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)
Elementary teachers are charged with educating on
large amounts of content and must be creative with
their curriculum instruction. Teaching financial literacy
concepts and skills in conjunction with other subject areas
affords a deeper understanding of the material, while
providing the time needed for proper implementation.
The TEKS have embedded financial literacy standards
within the mathematics standards and can easily be
integrated together.

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