Financial Fridays: It's About More than the Money

Brook Achterhof
Math and Science teacher, Brook Achterhof, delves into the philosophy and concept behind Finance Friday's at SGS. 
8th grade students will be doing a deep dive into topics related to finance and money every Friday this term. While money is often incorporated into word problems for other math topics, conceptual understanding of finance and money are often skipped over in mathematics education. However, the importance of being financially literate has life-long implications, in both our personal and professional lives. This NPR article further elaborates on the importance of quality financial education, as well as the disparities in financial understanding across race and gender. 

As I have introduced this topic with our 8th grade students, I’ve been surprised and excited by their enthusiasm for personal finance. Students are exploring personal budgeting through a simulation game, where they work an hourly job, are a part time student, pay bills including rent, cell phone, and a car payment, manage a credit card and checking account, and work towards building an emergency savings fund. As adults, these tasks can feel stressful, frustrating, or mundane, but to students, this can feel intriguing as they use their critical thinking skills to decide when to use credit vs. debit and how to manage building savings with covering wants vs. needs. Having the opportunity to manage financial risks before having to deal with the real-life consequences of choices is allowing 8th grade students to build financial decision making skills.

Students will connect our  study of exponential functions as they learn about compounding interest in the context of interest rates with a focus on credit cards and loans. Students will analyze the benefits of actual credit card offers to understand the benefits vs. deficits, especially in scenarios where a credit card payment is incomplete. Our study of loans will focus primarily on the student loan system used in the United States and the crippling impact that student loans often have on future decisions. Students will also be participating in a stock market simulation game, where they learn about how the stock market works and apply their understanding to invest money in different places. 

We will spend time analyzing tax systems, which students are eager to do after seeing part of their simulated paycheck go to taxes in their budget simulation game. Students will gain an understanding of progressive, proportional, and regressive tax systems before reviewing different state tax systems. They will then design their own state tax system and explain both the impact on taxpayers as well as justify that they will be able to fund state programs. 

Throughout these conversations on money, there will be a consistent theme of analyzing the class structure of this country and the impact of generational wealth on financial opportunities. Understanding wealth disparity, the impact of capitalism, and financial systems is an essential tool in conversations about social justice. Oppressive systems in our society are heavily supported by the economic systems at play, so building understanding of these concepts in our students is essential for them being able to create positive change in our world. 
Located in the Central District, Seattle Girls' School is an independent school for girls and gender nonconforming students in grades 5-8. Our mission is to inspire and develop courageous leaders who think independently, work collaboratively, learn joyfully, and champion change.