Texas Mathematics Teacher Spring/Summer 2022 - 28

Financial Literacy in the Primary Grades: Investing in Students' Futures
One activity that I enjoy doing with first graders is
determining the unknown whole number in an addition
or subtraction equation using coins. Students will use
algebraic reasoning skills to determine the unknown (5F)
while exploring the equal sign and how it represents the
relationship between both sides of the equation. I begin by
showing students a strip of coins. I explain to them that
some of the coins are hidden and that their job is to figure
out how many coins are on the strip (Figure 1). Next, I
give them clues to find the unknown in the equation. For
example, this strip of coins is equal to 7¢. How many coins
are covered? We model the equation ___+4¢=7¢. Finally, I
pass out pennies for students to manipulate to help create
the mathematical model.
However, I do not encourage the use of fundraising or
collecting money in the classroom for charity without
much thought into the students' individual circumstances.
Financial education needs to be done in a way that
provides equal opportunity for students and does not
highlight the individual students' socio-economic statuses.
Figure 1. The strip of coins is worth 7¢.
How many coins are covered?
This activity can be done using various coin
denominations to perform skip counting (5B) as well as
practice the properties of operations (5G). Once again,
students are using their mathematical knowledge and
processes, while continuing to gain familiarity with
financial skills.
One way to strengthen students' financial literacy
concepts begins with a discussion regarding spending,
saving, and sharing. Students have had experience with
spending, but it is important to begin instilling strategies
for saving and charitable giving (sharing). Talking with
students about decision making and consequences to
consider when making choices will be a precursor to
budgeting and money management. We use the same
strategy and reasoning when solving mathematical
problems that we would when forming financial
decisions.
I begin the discussion much like I would when teaching
sharing in the classroom. In this case there are two types
of sharing; one where you lend someone an item, and one
where it is freely given. The first type of sharing is called a
loan. One student is borrowing something from another.
We talk about the importance of taking care of the friend's
item and returning it in good condition. This extends to
other areas of school, such as borrowing a book from the
library. This type of sharing transitions nicely into loans
and borrowing, which eventually leads to credit and
debit.
The other aspect to sharing is giving someone an item, not
expecting it to be returned. Students communicate stories
of sharing snacks, pencils, and even in some instances,
money. We discuss how these items are given freely out
of goodwill and not with the expectation that they will
be reimbursed. The conversation is then steered toward
charitable giving and donations. In attempt to be as
realistic as possible, I like to use situations that students
might encounter in life.
28 | Spring/Summer 2022
Students can be presented with the following challenge:
Every day we are going to add one nickel to a jar until we save
up to a dollar. Once we reach a dollar, we are going to choose
a charity in which to donate. (Teachers may choose to use
genuine nickels or fake nickels if needed.) In this instance,
students are visually watching their money accumulate
over time (saving), knowing that when they reach a
dollar, that money will be given as a gift to a charitable
organization. They will apply mathematical processes (1)
while incorporating mathematical skills such as filling
in a goal thermometer to model the increase in savings
and drawing conclusions from the graph (8B, C) or using
a hundreds chart to recognize place value structure and
compare whole numbers (E).
Second Grade
In Grade 2, the expectations listed standard 11 of the TEKS
(TEA, 2012) are:
A. Calculate how money saved can accumulate into a
larger amount over time;
B. Explain that saving is an alternative to spending;
C. Distinguish between a deposit and a withdrawal;
D. Identify examples of borrowing and distinguish
between responsible and irresponsible borrowing;
E. Identify examples of lending and use concepts of
benefits and costs to evaluate lending decisions;
and
F. Differentiate between producers and consumers
and calculate the cost to produce a simple item.
Second graders will have a stronger grasp of coin
identification and value, thus more emphasis can
be placed on calculations and concepts. Within the
mathematics TEKS, students are required to determine
the value of a collection of coins up to one dollar (5A),
and represent this using the cent symbol, dollar sign, and
decimal point (5B). Once again, students will be building
on their prior experience in previous grades to enhance
their financial literacy ability by applying mathematical
skills to financial concepts.
One activity that you can incorporate with second graders
is what I call What's for Lunch? I challenge students
to think more deeply about item costs and the process
for managing one's money by planning a 5-day lunch
menu on a $5 budget. (Please note that a completely
authentic lunch would cost more than a dollar, but to
stay within the parameters of the standard, I keep it to a
$5 budget. Nevertheless, I encourage you to use higher
denominations for those students needing a challenge.)
We discuss how food is a need versus a want and we must
spend money in order to eat. We also have a conversation
about making wise choices and how these choices can
affect our health, as well as our budget!
I explain to the students that they do not have to spend
Texas Mathematics Teacher

Texas Mathematics Teacher Spring/Summer 2022

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