Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Finance 101 For Title 1

Most educators who work at Title 1 schools - schools educating the poorest among us - know there is a serious lack of education regarding finance.

In the state of Arizona, where I live and work, students learn how to count money in the 2nd and 3rd grades. It's in the Mathematics curriculum. Here's basically what they are learning.

  • The students learn the differences in amounts for coins and bills.
  • The students learn to add coins to the equivalent of amounts or bills ( 4 quarters = 1 dollar)
  • The students learn basic subtraction to determine amount of change.
This is a great start for second and third grade. There are a few problems with this, though.
  1. The students at this rate have never been exposed to decimals, so they don't grasp the math behind the adding and subtracting of coins.
  2. The following grades, where decimals are introduced, money is not specified in the curriculum, so the connections between two decimal numbers (in the hundreths) and money are not made.
  3. Money is not addressed again in the curriculum until high school Economics.
  4. Lower income students have a higher dropout rate by the time they've reached their junior or senior years of high school, many never make it to take the Economics class.
  5. Between Elementary and High School, students are not being taught budgeting and saving their money.
  6. Lower income students do not have a constant exposure to money (if you don't have it, you're not going to learn about it), so they have forgotten a lot of what they learned in 2nd and 3rd grades by the time they are in 5th and 6th grades.
Because of this, the cycle of poverty continues in a family until someone is actually taught about the basics in finance, such as budgeting and saving money.

This last school year, I asked the two 5th grade classes at my school how many had ever heard of a savings account. The result was about 1/2 of the students had heard about it, much less understood that when they save their money in a financial institution, they actually get money back as a reward (interest). About half of all students in this one grade level had never heard of this.

Now, take a look at our financial situation as a nation, and the growing number of people living in poverty. If parents don't understand finance well enough to raise themselves and their families out of poverty, how are the kids going to be able to do it?

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