Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Teaching Economic Principles through Literacy Methods

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Teaching Economic Principles through Literacy Methods

Article excerpt


In a nation of economic uncertainty, productive workers, responsible citizens, knowledgeable consumers, prudent savers and investors, effective participants in the global economy, and competent decision makers need to come forth. A National Test of Economic Literacy (Brenner, 1999) revealed "an appalling lack of knowledge among adults and teens" in the United States. Forty-nine percent of adults and 66% of high school students failed the test (Brenner, 1999, 5)! "While 96% of Americans think economics should be taught in the schools, only 13 states require students to take an economics course to graduate, and only two require them to take a course in personal finance" (Brenner, 1999, 5).

Literacy (reading and writing) is a core subject in schools; economics has not been recognized as a standard component of the school curriculum. Both subjects are critical to the success and well being of children and adults. By introducing economics through literacy methods, this "two at a time curriculum" can help students become acquainted with economic vocabulary and concepts, and at the same time learn how to read and write. Ultimately, if the economic concepts learned through this method of partnering economics and literacy are transferred to daily classroom language and situations, students will be able to generalize and apply them to other areas of their life!

Children need to be taught economic principles kindergarten through twelfth grade. This can happen without additional teaching time or resources by teaching economics and literacy simultaneously. Economic education can be integrated into a crowded curriculum using literacy methods. This paper will consider the implications of "two at a time curriculum" featuring economics as the content and literacy as the process.


Webster defines the word literate as "knowing letters, able to read and write" (Teal, 1984, 181). Recent studies reveal that the above definition of literacy is very basic and that literacy is so much more. Research indicates that teaching reading and writing skills in isolation is difficult for children because there is no meaning involved. Integration of literacy skills with content area subjects help learning become relevant to the student. Literacy is a process that must have a content area. Herr (1964) states, "[t]eaching phonics by elaborate isolated drills cannot be justified. The work must be meaningful and function with the reading lesson" (p. 16). This important concept is now used in classrooms so that learning can be more effective. It is important to understand

"that subject area instruction must guide children's reading and writing in order to produce the kind of literacy interactions and transactions that yield rich, full learning opportunities. Such instruction not only assists children in learning the content itself, but teaches them how to become increasingly independent, fluent readers and writers in subject areas"

(Ruddell & Ruddell, 1995, 433).

A content area that is often overlooked is economics. Children's knowledge in economics can increase while learning to read and write. Classroom teachers can integrate the content area of economics into the regular classroom by daily introducing economic concepts through children's literature. With children's literature as the foundation, reading and writing skills can be used to introduce and reinforce economic literacy. Other literacy methods and economic games can be motivating to the students and provide a rich environment for learning. Economic literacy needs to be taught K-12. When students are younger, it is a prime time or "window of opportunity" for learning because they are so teachable and fascinated with money. They can learn that with money comes the responsibility to make good choices and decisions. Economic literacy is important and so is literacy in reading and writing. Economics is the content and literacy is the process. …

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