The students in Greg Faulhaber's Algebra II class at Cincinnati's Colerain High School are just as likely to practice making money and spending it on rent, transportation and vacations as they are writing proofs. It's not real money, but that doesn't make the lessons they learn about financial management any less valuable.
"I play what I call the 'Game of Life' one day a week in class," Mr. Faulhaber explains. "Students learn money management through several methods. First, they make money at their 'job,' which is coming to class (base salary) and doing their work (commission). Next, they are required to purchase/pay for certain things: rent, some mode of transportation, furnishings for their apartment, car insurance and some sort of phone. They can choose to purchase other things, like gaming systems or cable TV. Toward the end of the semester, they calculate their taxes to see if they owe the government (me) any money or if they get a refund."
The lessons don't end there. Students pay for all expenses with 'checks' supplied by Mr. Faulhaber, and can even choose to obtain a credit card. Of course, with a credit card comes their monthly credit card statement, which they are then required to learn to read. They also get real tax forms (1040EZ), a budget worksheet and a requirement to purchase a car and calculate their financing options, along with finding an apartment. And next year, he plans on adding savings and investment options, as well as "some sort of connection to the stock market" to the game.
It's all information many students need ASAP. "I had one student who came back the following year as a senior asking for one of the apartment guides because she was moving out of her parents' home," Mr. Faulhaber says. "Another student was pregnant and incorporated things for her baby in her budget." Other students take their folders with them at the end of the class for future reference. Most importantly, he adds, they look forward to "Game of Life" day in class. "They came in excited, ready to see what the activity for the day was going to be."
And these real-world lessons are invlauable. "I think the greatest benefit for the students is when they realize how money works," Mr. Faulhaber says. "For instance, they are shocked to see how much comes out of their paychecks for taxes."
He adds, "When we do the car activity, everyone wants to buy a Lexus, Mercedes, or Hummer...until they see the cost/payments. Most settle on a basic Toyota or Ford instead."