The economic downturn is finally earning a place in American schools; or, at least it should be, according to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. To battle nationwide debt, extraordinarily bad credit, and general financial ignorance by the American public, Duncan suggested this week that schools should begin teaching personal finance lessons to all students, from kindergarten on up.
But are kindergarteners ready to learn personal finance?
Let’s take a look at common educational standards for kindergarten students. According to the Ohio Academic Standards for Math (a list of benchmarks that should be fulfilled per subject, per grade level) – kindergarteners should already be learning the following Math-related standards (among many more):
– Identify and state the value of a penny, nickel and dime.
– Determine “how many” in sets (groups) of 10 or fewer objects.
– Count to twenty.
– Model and represent addition as combining sets and counting on, and subtraction as take-away and comparison.
Value of money
At this point, kindergarteners are just learning that a penny equals one cent, a nickel equals five cents, and a dime equals ten cents. They do understand what money is, and that it is used in exchange for wanted items.
These students are not yet ready to discuss credit, mortgages, taxes or personal budgets. However, five and six-year-olds can still learn from finance lessons that state the price of an item, and count to see if they have enough money to buy it (e.g., “This candy costs ten cents. Do we have enough pennies to pay for it?”).
Setting up pretend shops can be an excellent activity for kindergarten classrooms, in which students act as cashiers, and others as customers, with play money. This method allows students to learn personal finance, as they determine whether or not they can afford items in the shop (and develop the skills and patience needed to cope if they cannot afford an item).
In kindergarten math, students must show they can count to twenty (though many surpass this number). At this rate, students are able to develop a basic understanding of financial lessons, taught in the simplest forms, as they count coins and other items.
Addition and subtraction
The absolute core of personal finance comes down to addition and subtraction – adding money and taking it away. With students learning the basics of these concepts, they can begin to understand that money isn’t infinite and it grows when we earn a paycheck, and diminishes when we buy something.
So are kindergarteners ready to learn personal finance? In our opinion, yes. And they most likely already do, in many kindergarten classrooms. It all boils down to age-appropriate lessons, fun and relatable activities, and basic, common sense financial information. Kind of like what their parents need.