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Teaching Money Management Through Math: A Practical Approach for Parents

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As parents, we all want the best for our children, including arming them with practical skills they’ll use throughout their lives. One such essential skill is money management. But it’s something that many young people of today struggle with. A survey noted that 53 percent of Gen Z lack confidence in money management skills. 

While it may not be part of a formal school curriculum, money management is something parents should begin teaching at home. Guess what? You can make learning about money much more engaging by incorporating math activities. Yes, math can be fun, especially when it’s wrapped up in the very adult topic of money!

How Parents Can Teach Kids About Money

Here are some practical tips that help:

The basics: counting and sorting

Even preschoolers can start understanding money management. Begin with the basics, like identifying different coins and bills. Make a game out of sorting coins, comparing their sizes and values, and counting them. 

This exercise isn’t just about identifying quarters, dimes, and nickels. It’s an opportunity to introduce simple addition and subtraction. For example, you can ask, “If you have three dimes, how much money do you have? Now, what if you add a quarter to it?”

Use the grocery store as a classroom

The grocery store is one of the best places to teach kids about money management. Before heading to the shop, make a grocery list and set a budget. Once you’re there, ask your child to find the best deals and compare prices. Is buying in bulk cheaper? Is the generic brand as good as the name brand?

To figure this out, kids will have to use percentages, unit rates, and multiplication. Plus, it introduces them to the concept of value for money.

Make it fun with a game

Want to take learning outside the classroom and store? Organize a scavenger hunt about math around the house or neighborhood. Create a list of clues or items that require your child to perform basic calculations to proceed to the next step. For instance, “Find something in the house that costs less than $5 but more than $2.” Or “How many 25-cent gumballs can you buy with $1?” 

This activity makes math more engaging and incorporates real-world scenarios where money management skills come into play.

Give a lesson in budgeting with an allowance

An allowance can be a strong motivator for kids to learn about money management. To teach budgeting, allocate the allowance in different “envelopes” or jars marked for specific purposes—say, ‘savings,’ ‘spending,’ and ‘charity.’ This way, children learn the art of budgeting, setting aside money for future use, and the joy of giving—all grounded in simple math calculations.

Introduce virtual money management

In today’s digital age, kids are already tech-savvy. In the US, 53 percent of those aged 11 already own a smartphone. Use this to your advantage. Several apps and websites allow kids to manage virtual money, invest in stocks, and even run small businesses. 

These platforms often have gamified experiences where children can earn and spend virtual currency. These apps can teach them about interest rates, profit and loss, and investment while strengthening their math skills.

Teach compound interest

Introduce the concept of compound interest for older kids who’ve mastered basic arithmetic. Create a simple spreadsheet showing how money grows over time when interest is added. Use real-life examples, like saving for a car or college, to make the concept relatable. Understanding compound interest enhances their algebraic skills and teaches them the value of long-term saving.

Instill Money Management Attitude

Don’t limit money management lessons to specific activities. Integrate them into daily life. Whether calculating the tip at a restaurant or estimating the gas money for a road trip, opportunities to apply math in money management are all around us.

Teaching money management through math offers a double benefit: kids become comfortable with numbers and learn vital life skills. As parents, it’s our job to prepare our children for the future. What better way to do that than equipping them with the tools they’ll need to make informed financial decisions? 

So, the next time you’re sorting laundry or cooking dinner, think about how you can incorporate a lesson on money management. Your kids’ future selves will thank you.

Jeff Campbell