Using a Classroom Economy to Teach Financial Literacy in Elementary

Posted by:
Amber Spikerman
on
April 2, 2024
4 minute read
I had never seen a group of students so engaged and enthusiastic about a classroom management system before. Students enjoyed getting to apply for jobs and shop our online store. 

Looking back on my personal education experience, the things I truly find lacking are the real world skills and concepts. After graduating high school and entering the adult world, I felt extremely unprepared for learning how to live and navigate outside of being under my parents' care. I had no idea how to budget my money, file taxes, or understand the effects of credit. Now, as I am in my 7th year as a third grade teacher, it comes as no surprise to me that the unit my students struggle with the most is personal financial literacy.

In my opinion, this unit has always felt like it was lacking content and seemed rushed to fit into the end of the school year before state testing. My students could never quite grasp the concepts, no matter how hard I tried. For the last couple of years, I had tried introducing an economy system into my classroom with paper dollars and a classroom store. However, in a post-covid world there were so many obstacles to this implementation. One obstacle was the paper money being in too many students' hands and passing around germs. Another obstacle was feeling the effects of the teacher shortage, leaving me with 29 third graders in my classroom. Paper money was not a feasible management system anymore with that many students and with so little time in the day to get through the content. This is when I decided there had to be a better way to have a class economy system. 

Benefits of a Digital Classroom Economy with ClassEquity

I began scouring the internet and Teachers Pay Teachers looking for some kind of digital economy resource that would be easy to manage with such a large group of students. I knew that I wanted a digital way to track their money as well as their jobs that I have students apply for. I just did not know what this would look like until I stumbled upon ClassEquity.

After a few minutes of browsing through the information and the demo on ClassEquity’s website, I knew that this was exactly the resource I was looking for. Not only could students apply for jobs and get their paychecks through the system, but I could also implement a digital class store. I found that you could charge students for other bills such as desk rent, electricity, and internet. I worked immediately to get my class set up and introduced ClassEquity the very next day. I had never seen a group of students so engaged and enthusiastic about a classroom management system before. Students enjoyed getting to apply for jobs and shop our online store. 

Students deopositing bonuses and applying to classroom jobs

Incorporating Financial Literacy and Life Skills in the Classroom 

The best part about all of this were the conversations ClassEquity started amongst students, not just in the classroom, but also at home with their families as well. Introducing bills was something I knew I wanted to do before going into the personal financial literacy unit. I decided to start with giving the students the option to pay rent monthly for their desk, or for a small discount, buy their desk for the remainder of the year and not have to pay rent. Once students were on board with this I decided to implement the electricity and internet bills. This led us to having a great discussion about how these things were not included when you buy or rent a home or apartment. These are all extra things that you have to budget for each month.

Students purchasing rewards from the class store

Parent Responses to Their Student's Classroom Economy Experience

The students were so engaged and began having conversations with their families at home over dinner. I started getting parent emails like the ones below:

“MS SPIKERMAN!

Can I just tell you how good of a job you are doing? __ has been talking non-stop about the classroom budgeting/money management. What a great idea?! We are so impressed. I absolutely love hearing about it. You're just such a great teacher, her father and I both appreciate you deeply! Thank you!”

“Hi Ms. Spikerman,

___ has been sharing stories about school and how you had them apply for jobs and rent or buy their desks.  And I just wanted to send a note and mention how great I think it is!  Such a creative way to teach them some responsibility.”

I saw such improvement in how my students did in our financial literacy unit and how they had deep understanding with personal connections to how finances worked. It showed in their assignments, assessments, and even in our annual economics fair! My only regret is not finding ClassEquity sooner!

Check out our Getting Started Resources and Sign Up for ClassEquity here!