Lend Me the Money | Teaching Teens about Interest, Credit, & Loans

Good Monday Morning! The number one thing that students ask me as a math teacher is “when are we ever going to need to know this stuff?” Nothing is so important in high school math – in my opinion – as learning exponential functions and under that umbrella, compound interest. The number one thing I see people asking in financial Facebook groups is, “how do I teach this to my child?” This post will help teachers and parents who want to teach a basic introduction of credit and loans (which are founded on interest).

When I created this project my main goal was to have students create an authentic final product which would focus on education. I ran a study my first year and knew first hand that students perform better on assessments when they have taught that subject matter to their peers. Because of schedule challenges, I felt a podcast would be the best medium since students could work at their own pace. There is also a lot of room for creative expression in creating a podcast. At that time, there were not as many personal finance podcasts out there; every podcast I was able to locate was boring and totally uninteresting. I challenged students to create something interesting since money is so important to our lives.

To transition into this project, we  listened to Criminal Episode 51: Money Tree as a class. If you have never listened to Criminal, I suggest you try it out and start with this episode. It’s a captivating podcast. This episode was about identity theft, which is an important concept to cover with teenagers but I can’t teach a whole unit on. It pops up here and there but I like to do at least one lesson series on it where we explicitly discuss it. I asked students to write a two paragraph reflection on what they learned and we had a follow up class discussion. Listening to Criminal covered an important topic in personal finance and introduced them to an excellent production of a podcast. Later in the project they would break down what makes a podcast high quality.

The next week we actually started the project.


Lend Me the Money

Target Age Group: grades 11 – 12

Time: 7 weeks


  • I can describe a loan and its terms.
  • I can calculate compound interest.
  • I can explain the difference between a debit and credit card.
  • I can interpret and analyze a credit card statement.
  • I can explain the impact of debt on a person’s life.
  • I can explain and question predatory lending practices.
  • I can determine the pros/cons of having a credit card.
  • I understand the basics of a credit score.



Project Launch

These three different activities spark students’ interest in the topic and project. They introduce basic activities and the project itself. Even though students don’t know a lot of information about credit and loans, I could still start the project off with starting with what students know. I had them conduct a SOLE activity to learn the definition and components of credit. In a SOLE, students complete group research in a short amount of time and then have to present their learning to the class. They make a poster of their key findings to use in their presentation. They must cite their sources. And I had them do an exploration of compound interest about Fry’s Bank Account. Finally I introduced the project through the entry document. This document used a series of facts and statistics about finances in the US. The following problem statement was posed as the culmination of the document:

Problem Statement: How do we as students at a tech based school, plan and produce a compelling podcast series so that we can educate millions of 12-15 year olds about credit and loans?


Benchmark 1A: Calculating with Interest

Before beginning any research or podcast creation, I required that students actually learn what interest is, as it is the foundational piece to understanding what you sign up for when you acquire a loan. This benchmark covers the formal calculations for both simple and compound interest. Students were able to work at their own pace and completed a quiz in google forms when they felt they had mastered it. If they failed the quiz, I would see that data and then workshop with students before they re-quizzed. When students pass the quiz they move on to Benchmark 1B and listen to a podcast on their own and complete the Podcast analysis.


  • Notes on each topic
  • Practice Work
  • Reflection on why we need to learn about compound interest and on Albert Einstein’s quote about interest being the 8th wonder of the world.
  • Quiz through Google Forms


Benchmark 1B: Planning a Podcast

The first part of this benchmark is happening while benchmark 1A is still going on. Because my class was grades 9-12 students will inherently worked at very different paces on compound interest. Some students mastered the quiz in one day. They were able to listen to multiple podcasts and analyze them, whereas a few students actually had to skip the individual listening. I prioritized understanding compound interest over the podcast listening activity. All students participated in the final activity, the Podcast Planning Protocol, in their groups for the project. This was a discussion based activity in which I kept them on each step before allowing them to move on. They figured out a basic approach to creating their podcast through this activity. We posted their steps in the room to refer to later.


  • Individual Listening
  • Podcast Analysis Worksheet
  • Podcast Planning Protocol – Teacher facilitates each step


Benchmark 2: Research & Planning

Students work with their groups to chose roles and create a contract to ensure the work gets done. Then they complete research on the topic they chose for their podcast. All students did some “research” together as a class when a substitute teacher showed them videos created by Bank of America and they completed a video guide. I listed the videos below which you can find on their Youtube Channel. The links are also in the guide which you can download (see the bottom of the post). The research composite is the most important piece of this benchmark, as the final product cannot be completed without it. Students must have solid, credible research before putting together any product regarding it. As in most projects, I curated websites and videos for each topic available to students. Sending students to search freely on the internet is a terrible idea. Since I had all levels in my class with varying skill in conducting useful research, I provided credible sources to them.


  • Group Roles Descriptions
  • Group Contract
  • Bank of America Videos & Response Guide
    • How Loans Work
    • Making Borrowing Decisions
    • When to Use Credit vs. Debit
    • Building Credit and Keeping Yours Healthy
    • Victims of ID Theft
    • True Cost of a Car
  • Teacher Compiled Resources for Research
  • Research Composite
  • Mid Project Check In


Benchmark 3: Final Product | The Podcast

Over 3 weeks, students conducted their research, interviews, and compiled a podcast. Students submitted their final mp3 file of their podcast through our online portal. Because I work in a district with chronic absenteeism, it is not always possible for a child to work in a group. I created an alternative assignment for this small group of students that can be done on their own.

  • Podcast Submission
  • Alternative Assignment for students unable to complete a group project (3-5 page paper)


Post Project Activities:

Since no group actually covered student loans (I was surprised by this)  I felt I needed to at least touch on it. I did a workshop in class about thE Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and we also learned about Payday Loans. In order to show the video with John Oliver, who does an excellent story about Payday Loans, you will need to get permission from your principal and possibly signed permission forms. I feel it is super important to cover payday loans since my students will become the target market for them. There are at least 4 payday lending sites within a mile of our school.


Downloadable Materials

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