# 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.