financial literacy at Quilchena

Posted on: April 21st, 2014 by jnovakowski

April is Financial Literacy month in both Canada and the USA and April 16th specially is “Talk to Your Kids about Money” day, sponsored by the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education.

I spent April 16th at Quilchena Elementary, working with the intermediate teachers and students on lessons focused on financial literacy, specifically in mathematics. Our redesigned curriculum framework in mathematics includes learning outcomes from grades 1-9 that focus specifically on financial literacy.

In Una Simpson’s grades 4 & 5 class, the students are learning about mining and natural resources and have an upcoming field trip to Britannia Mines. Una used a lesson that she has used in the past to highlight the importance of budgeting, financial decision-making and business planning. This cookie mining lesson came from an older resource called Common Ground: Modern Mining and You. The students began with $19 in capital investment and then had to make wise financial decisions around purchasing a mining site (choice of three cookies) and mining tools (flat toothpick, round toothpick and paperclip). The overall goal of the exercise was for their mining companies to make a profit so the students thought carefully about their expenses.

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The students then surveyed and measured their site and “mined” for chocolate chips.

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The students were then paid $2 for each full chocolate chip or square centimetre of chocolate bits and also received $1 per square centimetre of their crumbs – reclaimed land from their mining site.


I was one of the bankers and enjoyed completing transactions with the students and listening in on their strategies for making a profit. This was a great lesson in economics!


The students in Andrew Livingston’s grade 7 class have been working on converting decimal fractions to percentages and using decimals in calculations and so we introduced a context in which students could apply these concepts and skills. We worked through two “percentage off” shopping problems together and then students had a choice of problems they could work though. One of the problems was based on a true story from my home, with my son finding an online coupon to get 30% off of a jacket but this would make it less than $50 so he would lose the free shipping deal. He had to figure out what was the better financial decision before I let him use my credit card to place his order and the students in the grade 7 class were intrigued by this real life story (I also added the tax calculation into the problem).


In some cases, when the focus of the mathematics is interpreting a problem or learning a new concept, we don’t want students to get stalled by complex computations, so calculator use is sometimes used in these situations.


We handed out the current version of the criteria sheet we have been developing together for students to use when working in their math journals or with ShowMe (screencasting). For this class, I noticed the students referring to the criteria sheet to help them think about all the things they should include in their math journals as they worked through the problem.


The student above systematically shows his calculations (it was recess and he wasn’t finished but continued later) for each situation so that he can compare his results later. He is setting himself up well to have clear evidence to show why he decided on the answer he did.


In Tanya Blumel’s grades 5&6 class, Lucie Joseph (learning resource teacher) and I worked with a small group of students to introduce the idea of creating a financial plan or budget. I gave the students two options – they could budget for a $20 dinner for a family or group of 4 or 5 people (students then extended this and also created budgets for breakfast and lunch meals) or they could prepare a budget for a Me to We fundraiser where the goal was to make a profit of $100 to donate to the charitable organization. Both choices involved students searching through this week’s Safeway flyer although we had our laptops ready if they wanted to search for prices for items that weren’t in the flyers.


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We had great conversations about how grocery stores market their items. “Buy 1 get 1 free” may not always be such a great deal and the students were quick to notice that the actual price was not included for these deals.


The more complex of the two tasks was choosing an item and thinking about how much they could sell it for at a fundraiser and then how many of those items they would need to buy in order to make a $100 profit (with a loan from the school that would be repaid after the fundraiser). We had interesting conversations too about what would be a desirable item for a fundraiser because regardless of price, someone has to want to buy it! The two boys that worked through this problem chose a selection of baked goods that they thought would be good sellers.

This group of students will now be team leaders and facilitate this same math task with a small group of their peers.


The day was full of all sorts of conversations about spending, buying, selling and decision-making. I couldn’t help but notice how genuinely engaged the students were with the problems and tasks presented to them.




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