Expanded Financial Literacy Unit Helps Students Make Wise Choices

Article excerpt

Meeker High School

MEEKER * CO

Financial literacy is a national, state, and local concern these days. At one time, the financial unit in high school family and consumer sciences (FCS) classes was as simple as looking at budgets and doing checkbook exercises. However, after students at Meeker High School in Meeker, Colorado began to ask more in-depth questions and realized that they needed additional learning experiences, the unit was further developed and expanded.

The FCS Financial Literacy Program is now a 6-week unit designed to meet the Managing Your Finances, Colorado Core Life Management Curriculum Standard II, and Consumer and Family Resources, FCS Education National Standard 2.0. The goal for the Life Management Course is to teach students skills for living on their own. The ultimate goal of Financial Literacy is to build a strong society of individuals and families who are financially literate and who make wise choices with their money. The primary focus of the unit is to ensure that students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to make informed choices regarding money management, banking, use of credit, savings and investments, insurance, and taxes. It also crosswalks with and supports the math and language arts curriculums.

Through discussion and brainstorming with students, we verified that many of them have savings accounts; a few have checking accounts, stocks, certificates of deposit (most think CDs are for music), and car insurance, and some have filed a 1040EZ. None of them had credit cards. It is crucial to make the issues meaningful and connected to their immediate futures.

Oral class polls revealed that most students know how to write checks, but they think that if they have checks, they have money. These students have learned about overdrafts. One in ten has a checking account; one in 15 knows how to reconcile their account with the bank statement.

A team from the local bank makes the latest technology available to students. At the computer lab, students participate in a demonstration to learn about online banking. In addition to paying bills online, they learn to work with programs such as Quicken's financial software and tools such as financial calculators and amortization tables as well as features that keep track of checks that have not cleared, and those that allow them to set up event reminders (e.g., due dates for bills).

The financial literacy unit supports and applies the math curriculum as students determine budget percentages, complete checkbook registers, enter correct numbers in computer programs, analyze credit card offers, calculate shares of individual stocks to fit a specific budget, assess insurance costs, and complete tax forms. These practical applications validate for them the critical need for math skills. Research projects that require processing information, writing, and speaking before others support the language arts curriculum.

The language arts teachers allow extra credit for reports FCS students have written. …