In our programs we have seen all kinds of kids with amazing talents over the past few years. As an established program on financial literacy for kids, we often interact with these kids at a level very different from a school teacher or a parent. In our programs, kids work towards a future they see themselves in. This isn’t about grades it’s about applying the skills they learn to go several steps ahead of their peers.
One of the things we noticed earlier, and we see consistently, is a correlation between the love of numbers and the ease at which a child understands money. When a child is not afraid of numbers, they are not afraid of money, because at the end of the day, money is essentially a bunch of numbers. This child is now better placed to be a financially successful adult.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than when we do the Investment Challenge where kids will play a stock market game with $10,000 in a virtual portfolio. The winners are normally the ones who love numbers. They understand it to a level where math is fun. What we found surprising is that kids who were considered “gifted” in math, or the ten year olds who were being tutored several times a week in math, were never the ones who fared well in the challenge.
Bad Math Experiences = Lack of Interest in Financial Matters
Simply put, these kids had associated money and it’s numbers with the grueling work involved in math worksheets. Teaching rote math was not effective when we were kids and it is not effective now. While almost everyone in my generation will know their multiplication tables, I can confirm from what we have seen that only a fraction of adults who are between 40-50 years old really understand how to invest. And believe me, your financial health is far more important than doing your multiplication tables when you have a family to take care of.
So, How do we change things for our kids?
Math needs to be fun. Math needs to be relevant. Math needs to be applied. This is a hard job, but if we want to see a difference in the financial skills of the next generations, we have to make some hard changes to the way we approach math.
I understand that there are parents who may love to have their 9 year old doing calculus, but as controversial as this may sound, my advice to them is that they are putting your efforts in the wrong place.
After seeing such a defined correlation between math and financial literacy, and after several in depth conversations with 2 educators that I highly respect, we created a program called “Creative Math”.
In this program, a child works to build their board game, it can have any shape and any rules they want. They learn a math concept and implement it in their game. Our goal was to create a math program which is fun, relevant and which is driven by the kids (through their game).
The results were shocking. We have had kids who excelled in traditional rote math tutoring programs, but have great difficulty in applying themselves to the practical aspect of math. We have seen kids who don’t score well in school math do really well. Irrespective of where they are on the spectrum at school for math, we instill a love for applied math that will last them for life. They learn to use math to create unique twists in their games so that their game is more interesting than the rest. More importantly, when they walk through our doors, they are not thinking about math but how they can use what they learned to improve their game.
And it is this kind of understanding and application of numbers that will bode them well in their financial future.