Teaching mathematics using consumer and financial literacy

Teachers are time-poor. We know that. But teaching financial literacy
is not an added burden, it’s actually part of the curriculum. And if you teach it
in an integrated manner, just like in the MoneySmart unit, you’re actually going to be
saving yourself the time. It makes sense that you’re
teaching maths with literacy, with history if you want —
it makes sense. And it does save you time. It’s a constructivist approach
to teaching and learning, and it’s the way that children learn. So you’d be crazy
not to actually teach in that way. So the purpose of the project was to engage
students more in mathematics, but even bigger than that, it was using financial literacy
as a tool to do that. And we actually focused on children
in those socioeconomic areas so that it would improve
their life opportunities by increasing their understanding
of mathematics, engaging them more, but also giving them some education
about financial literacy. I think teaching students
about consumer and financial literacy is an extremely important life skill that they need to have. By doing work
around consumer and financial literacy with my kids, it’s really opened my eyes to their — I suppose two avenues;
they have some knowledge that they bring to the discussion around consumer and financial literacy, but there’s so many things
that they don’t have knowledge about, which I feel,
as a teacher, as their teacher, it’s my job
to impart that knowledge to them and teach them to be active and informed citizens
of a community, and to be making those decisions and choices that are relevant
to their lives now, but it’s also going
to affect their lives as an adult as well.>>Money forms part of
what the whole number side of things. It’s not just about money,
they’re learning about adding and subtracting
and multiplying and dividing. So it fills in so much of that. But there’s also
the working mathematically strands of problem-solving,
and the reasoning. And especially the communicating — getting them to be able
to talk about it, because we’re a school
of about 97 percent non-English speaking background; 35 percent refugees. And within that class there, I’ve got
this year three children who are newly-arrived refugee. And so they’ve had
to learn a lot about, you know, what money looks like in Australia, but the language to be able
to talk about it as well. It makes them appreciate,
it makes them see, you know, this stuff is important,
because it’s about me. And I can see how it’s connecting
not just exactly what’s happening now, but it’s also connecting to tomorrow, it’s connecting through the home, and I can see the relevance that it’s going
to have for me later on in my life. Financial literacy almost belongs — well, it does, it belongs
in the maths curriculum. It belongs in other curricula as well, but it’s particularly suited to be
taught within the maths curriculum, because it’s not just notes and coins, but it’s all of that critical thinking that comes under the maths curriculum. And you can see the kids here,
they engaged in measurement, they engaged in data. But it was all really
about financial literacy. So we can’t not teach it under the umbrella
of the maths curriculum. And every teacher needs to be aware
that that’s the case.>>Huge changes
in their engagement with mathematics. It’s really provided them
an opportunity to see how useful mathematics can be, and also their engagement. And because of that, it’s really enabled
me to challenge them in areas that before, they would have resisted. So particularly in looking
at some mental computation around division and multiplication, the students would often kind of shy away from those sorts of areas, because they felt
very uncomfortable with it. But this project offered a relevancy
to their learning, that they needed those skills in order to work out exactly how many serves you can get
out of one packet of M & M’s to put on a cupcake topping, and the real enrichment when the kids then started
to see connections between areas of mathematics as well. So at one point we’ll be calculating
the surface area of a biscuit compared to the surface area
of a cupcake to see whether it would take
the same amount of icing. And then in some parts, some of it we all worked together
on a particular aspect of one group’s project, and then at other times
they worked separately.>>It’s evident
that the children are more engaged. They could tell us that
they were more engaged in mathematics, and that they understand more
about financial literacy. But for me, what’s more important is that the teachers have that valuing
of financial literacy education, because they’re more likely to teach it
to the next group of children that they have in front of them
next year, and the year after. So basically, what we want
is a whole school approach, and we want that dissemination of the importance of financial literacy
to go beyond the school into the parent community,
and even beyond that.>>Just seeing students who almost unanimously
at the beginning of the year say they hated maths and thought it was really irrelevant, and something that was
kind of done to them, turning to people
that see mathematics as useful and that enjoy aspects of it. Do you know, there’s been a huge change in their engagement with mathematics as a part of this project. And that’s been so wonderful to see. It’s been a significant change in how they engage with school, but also how they feel
about themselves as learners. And they got this sense of success. The important message is to make
learning meaningful and purposeful, and contextualize the mathematics; that’s how we engage
students with maths. It’s one of the most
important things we can do. Once they’re engaged, we know they might
continue studying maths down the track, but if we lose them
in the primary years, or in the middle years, then
it’s very, very hard to bring them back. So we know kids love money — that’s the tool
to teach them maths. I mean, there are other ways
to learn maths as well, but this is an important opportunity
that we just can’t miss.