Making Math and Money Fun While Teaching Smart Spending Habits
Working with money at a young age can help reinforce mathematical concepts as well as positive financial habits for kids.
I absolutely hated math when I was younger. I had to spend hours every week working on story problems and memorizing addition facts throughout grade school, and it was all so theoretical; if you have five of something and you add it to five of something, then you’ll have 10 somethings. Sure. But I needed the somethings for it all to make sense. I needed to add five fingers to five fingers, action figures to actions figures, block to blocks.
My son Johnny, a student a Kenwood Elementary (like I was), is much like me in this way. He can add and subtract, multiply, work with fractions, and I am extremely happy about that. I tell him how important math is and how we deal with it everyday. But, like myself, until he is faced with these tangible math problems, he really won’t understand the importance.
Enter money. Johnny understands money. He knows that the CDs we can and cannot bring home from Flipside, when we can or can’t go out to eat to A&W, or how many games he can play at the arcade are dependent on money.
Understanding the value of money and the importance of its functions in our society is important on its own and it is a good idea to introduce and stress positive financial habits to our kids.
I’m not advocating bribing your kids for good behavior, but developing an allowance plan or a system of rewards for going above the usual call of duty is an excellent way to introduce finances into your kids’ lives while reinforcing the math skills they’ve been developing in school.
I have back problems and Johnny’s little elbows are the perfect size to get out many of the more difficult knots in my muscles. Earning a couple of dollars as a mini-masseuse for me is one way he makes money around the house, which he used to burn through pretty quick getting cheap toys at the Dollar Tree.
We’ve begun working on another idea that involves printing up “Johnny-Bucks” (as I’m calling them) at Staples (where you can print black and white for cheap and they make a paper cutter available for free near the “print center” to cut up those bucks after printing). I’m designing fake money, but the idea is that Johnny and I work out a schedule of chores, each worth a certain amount of Johnny-Bucks. Shoveling snow might be worth $3 JB, cleaning his room $5 JB, clearing the dinner table $1; you get the idea.
Along with the schedule of chores would be a list of activities and prizes and their corresponding cost. A sleepover might cost $25 JB, an extra hour of video games $8 JB, etc. He would even be able to trade in Johnny-Bucks for real money (I haven’t decided on an exchange rate yet, maybe $10 JB for $1 American Dollar) to purchase real toys at Target or resale shops in Clawson like Affordable Consignment and Sprouting Tots.
A system like this has children doing all the math, reinforcing addition, subtraction, fractions, as well as solid fiscal habits like saving money and avoiding fickle spending. And accidentally losing $50 of fake money isn’t such a big deal, now is it.