Teaching Students about the Psychology of Money

Good Monday morning! It’s Math Talk Monday again. Have you ever wondered how your brain actually processes the acts of saving and spending? In my experience, high school students love learning about psychology. They love becoming aware of why they think or act in certain ways. They like knowing how their brains are working. So when it comes to money, it is especially important to think about how we think. Today I am sharing a lesson plan for diving into the psychology of money with your students.

I ran this lesson in a larger project called “This Is Your Life.” The science teacher was teaching about psychology and I was teaching basic personal finance. We were working with seniors.

Introductory Discussion

Have students discuss in small groups and then have the groups share out about each question separately. Before starting the discussion, set the norm that each person has the right to their own answers and beliefs about the questions asked. 

  • How do we develop our money management habits?
  • If you have candy (or some food item you enjoy) in front of you, are you able to delay eating it? Why or why not?
  • If you had the choice of receiving $50 right now or waiting a year and receiving $100, which would you choose?

Article Jigsaw

Doing a jigsaw allows for students to gain information from a larger text without having to read all of it. We divided students into three groups to read the three sections of the Money Crashers article “The Psychology of Money – How saving and Spending Are Programmed into Your Brain.”

Group 1 read the beginning of the article and the sub-header “Brain Activity.” Group 2 read the sub-header “The Spenders.” Group 3 read the sub-header “The Savers.” This article does a nice job of explaining the chemical reactions our brains have to financial acts and how that relates to our financial identities as either savers or spenders. It gives actionable steps for how to save money for the spenders and how to not deprive oneself of enjoyable experiences or necessities for the savers.

Students read their article section and then highlight the three items needed for a text rendering protocol. They highlight what is particularly significant to them in the reading; they highlight a sentence, a separate phrase, and a separate word.

When the protocol in the classroom is run, students simply read out the items they highlighted. There is no discussion of why they chose that item. You simply go around the room and one person after the next reads their sentence; there should be no down time. Then the pattern begins again with each person reading their phrase. Finally, everyone reads out their one word. While this is happening, students are expected to listen to what everyone says and try to pick up on themes or patterns.

Text Rendering Debrief

  • What did you hear that caught your attention?
  • How can this knowledge help you understand yourself better?
  • How might other parts of the brain play a role in your financial actions?

Be sure to facilitate some discussion that ties the psychology article back to the original questions.

Share your thoughts!

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