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Teaching students the basics of personal finance, the importance of savings and how to make sound financial decisions, has never been more important. This applied savings and investments lesson plan can be used in math and business classes to teach students fundamental concepts they can use throughout their lives. This applied example also shows students how they can use the math they learn in school to make good decisions with their money.
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Learning Objectives & Materials Needed
This lesson is designed for middle school students but it can be further customized to suit other grade levels. The goal is to teach students the following concepts and methods:
- Students will understand simple and compound interest and how to calculate both.
- Students will be able to compare different savings options and evaluate their benefits.
- Students will be able to understand differences between different types of investments (e.g. stocks and bonds).
To effectively teach students this material, the teacher should have the following materials and knowledge:
- Understanding of common financial terms and concepts: interest, compound interest, stocks, bonds and so on.
- Brochures from several local banks and credit unions about savings accounts available in the community and what interest rates are available
- Financial education materials from a reputable government agency such as the Securities and Exchange Commission to use as reference material (See Resources below)
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These classroom activities can be used to teach math skills and educate students about savings and investments. It is recommended to use a combination of individual and group activities to encourage students to learn the material.
Activity: Calculate Simple Interest
In this activity, students will be given a series of math word problems involving simple interest. The problems will range from issues of immediate concern (e.g. what interest will I earn if I deposit my allowance into the bank?) to more long term concerns (e.g. what simple interest would be obtained on savings of $1000).
Activity: Calculate Compound Interest
Since many investment products and savings accounts offer compound interest, it is important students understand how this type of interest differs from simple interest. Suggested math word problems to explore this concept should use different time periods (e.g. 1 year, two years and five years). In addition to the saving allowance idea mentioned above, teachers may wish to include an example on saving money for college.
Activity: Saving For A Goal
Much of saving and investing involves giving up spending today for greater rewards in the future. Mastering this concept may be difficult for students to appreciate. This activity involves math questions that ask students how long it would take to save for a desired item like a computer or bicycle. This applied example will show students how interest can help them achieve their goals.
Activity: Learn Basic Investment Options
In addition to savings accounts and certificates of deposit, many people invest in stocks and bonds. In order to keep the math accessible to students, focus on U.S. government bonds. In this activity, students will be assigned some educational or introductory materials from the U.S. Treasury, SEC or other reliable agency. Important concepts to cover include the different rates offered by bonds and the varying maturity periods (e.g. five year and ten year bonds) typical of bonds.
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After completing the classroom activities outlined in the previous section, these assessment methods can be used to determine how much students have learned.
- Quiz on Interest: Use 3-5 word problems to underscore the concept of simple interest and how it compares to compound interest. Consider including one or two "extra credit" questions on bonds.
- Homework assignment: Saving for a goal: For example, how long would it take to save $15,000 to buy a used car? Provide the students with several types of saving options with different interest rates.
- Compound Interest, http://math.ucsd.edu/~wgarner/math4c/textbook/chapter4/compoundinterest.htm
- Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Fir0002
- Money Math: Lessons For Life, http://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/tools/tools_moneymath.htm
- SEC Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, http://www.sec.gov/investor/teachers.shtml