How a Teacher Taught Her First Graders Personal Finance

How a Teacher Taught Her First Graders Personal Finance

In the "this warms our hearts" category, Carmen Johnson, a teacher in Florida won an award for teaching personal finance to first graders. Seriously. While she may not have delved into short-selling and ETFs she did give very basic lessons in such things as budgeting.

The trick to presenting concepts in terms young children can relate to. Johnson used jigsaw puzzles. She set up a system in which students could earn puzzle pieces by doing tasks on time—a metaphor for devoting time to budgeting—and staying quiet when they are supposed to. Every time a student earned a puzzle piece, they could add it to the puzzle.

"If they are on task and doing what they're supposed to be doing, the faster they can finish the puzzle," Johnson explained. "It can take a few days to get a puzzle together, or it can take a week—it's up to them."

When a puzzle was complete, she would turn it over, and the students would find a message telling them what prize they had earned, from an end-of-the-week ice cream party to an extended recess. In other words, their reward for their long-term efforts, just as savings would pay them over time.

Ice cream party as a reward for budgeting? We have zero problem with that.

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