In response to the financial crisis of 2008, schools were under pressure to offer more instruction in financial literacy. The need for students to possess functional financial literacy post-graduation was clear. Topics ranging from saving, investing, loans, checking accounts, credit cards, credit scores, and interest rates were finally deemed essential knowledge.
Prior to this shift, children learned about these topics from their parents or caretakers, did so on their own, or unfortunately never learned about them at all.
This call-to-action was heard by schools and districts nation-wide who responded with Personal Finance courses available to students. As of 2020, there were 21 states that require such a course for graduation (Carrns, 2020).
The need for this knowledge is prevalent. A recent study by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (Hasler, Lusardi, & Valdes, 2021), revealed 44% of respondents found it stressful to discuss finances and 53% said that even thinking about their finances made them anxious. Given this data, it isn’t surprising many people struggle to understand a modern financial landscape built upon terms such as bear market, bridge loan, balloon payment, and amortization to name only a few. At a time when inflation is soaring, college tuition is out-of-reach for many, and gas prices are sky high, it has never been more important for youth to have a firm grasp on financial literacy.
As a former secondary mathematics supervisor, I am glad to see students using their math skills practically. Often, mathematics is seen as abstract or unnecessary. Historically, it was difficult for students to comprehend the realistic applications of their math lessons outside of calculating a tip at a restaurant or a sale discount at a store. As a Senior Instructional Designer in Mathematics at CenterPoint Education Solutions, I recently and eagerly accepted the challenge of creating interim assessments for a school district’s financial literacy course (Details about this assessment will be provided in Part 2 of this blog piece).
The goal of this course goes beyond merely solving problems and responding to questions. Rather, the goal—as it should be in everything we teach—is for students to learn skills in a way they could apply them in multiple facets of their lives.
As American society evolves, it is incumbent upon education to evolve accordingly. We spend less time today teaching students how to make ash trays in shop class than we did 50 years ago, while we spend more time teaching coding and digital photography. As we should. The needs of society are diverse and many whereas the hours spent in a school day are few. Therefore, the decisions we make about how to best use that time should be based on the life circumstances our youth will likely face as adults.
Financial literacy is worthy of that consideration.
In Part 2, I will examine the role of assessment in the teaching and learning of financial literacy and mathematics.
After over 30 years of experience in education at the classroom, district, and organizational level, Peter Cincotta is now a Senior Instructional Designer in mathematics for CenterPoint Education Solutions. CenterPoint is a mission driven, nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC dedicated to supporting schools and districts in implementing coherent instructional models consisting of high-quality curriculum, tightly aligned assessments, and professional learning.
Carrns, Ann. (2020, February 7). More States Require Students to Learn About Money Matters. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/your-money/states-financial-education.html.
Hasler, A., Lusardi, A., & Valdes, O. (2021, April). Financial Anxiety and Stress among U.S. Households: New Evidence from the National Financial Capability Study and Focus Groups. FINRA. https://gflec.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Anxiety-and-Stress-Report-GFLEC-FINRA-FINAL.pdf?x85507.