MTM – Getting Started Talking About Money in your Classroom

Good Monday Morning! It’s another Math Talk Monday and today I want talk about what you do when you want to start talking about money in your class. For some people, talking about money can be awkward and even embarrassing. It’s taboo in our society in many areas. If you feel uncomfortable talking about money with friends or family, that discomfort might extend to your classroom. Or, you might be uncomfortable discussing money with your peers but feel like you are knowledgeable enough to talk to kids. But you have to be careful not to talk at, or worse, talk down to, your kids. No matter what, you need to have an open dialogue and it’s easy to make the mistake of getting excited and spewing everything you know/believe in.

Your students have a financial identity even if you haven’t seen it emerge. Students as young as kindergarten have knowledge that evolves into financial knowledge and teenagers have formed most of their beliefs that will influence their spending and saving habits for the rest of their lives. I don’t come from the same community as my students do, so the activity I present below was especially important for me to start with. The key thing that I’ve needed to internalize for this work is that just because someone is poor, doesn’t mean they are bad with money. Most of my students are entrenched in generational poverty. (I am not going to dive into the systemic oppression this group of people faces; I am just going to assume you accept that and have discussed/written about it yourself in your master’s coursework.) Conversely, just because someone is middle (or upper) class, doesn’t mean they are good with money. Your kids’ parents can drive a BMW but still have no emergency fund, something I and most financial writers advocate for strongly. In all cases, make no assumptions and do what you learned in school by finding out what students already know and believe about your content before you start teaching the unit.

If you are new to teaching about money, this activity is an easy 20 minute way to start off. It requires a little printing and cutting to prepare and then the rest is really up to your students to create the knowledge. After class, make a note of what you learned from students and incorporate it to your subsequent lessons. You will be amazed by the insight and beliefs your students articulate.

The protocol is called a Block Party. Essentially, students will stand up and find someone to talk to, then find someone else to talk to, and so on, as long as you want it to go. I find that 3 rounds is usually sufficient. You can adapt it and make groups join together and change the discussion questions for each round. But I like talk and switch so students can find multiple perspectives. The final step is to do a full class discussion where you as the teacher will aggregate the learning.

The basis for the block party is financial quotes. I love using quotes in my class. It allows students to anchor to something so they don’t have to come up with an idea from scratch. It gives them a starting point; they can agree or disagree; they can tell a story about how the quote applies to their own life. Each student gets a quote, reflects on it, then discusses it throughout the block party. Start by giving students time to think. I always ask students to write down their ideas, at least in bullet points, so that they have a record of what they thought. They tend to forget key ideas once they get chatting. Then set them out on the Block Party. The quote set I have created for download has 18 unique quotes on it because I had 18 students in my class. Students in my first class three years ago kept the quotes and made them their own. Some even felt like fate had given them the perfect quote 🙂 If you want more than 18 quotes, you can check out my pinterest board I created just for this activity.


Block Party Protocol

Read the quote you were given. Reflect. (2 minutes)

What does this quote mean to you?

Do you agree/disagree with the idea?

How does the idea relate to your life and money?

Find someone to talk to. (10 minutes) 

Share your quote and what you thought about it.

Switch & repeat.

Switch & repeat.

Share out what you learned in class discussion. (5 minutes)


Downloadable Material:

Block Party

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