September 2014: Literacies for the digital age: Financial literacy

Kathy's Katch

I have identified thirteen literacies important for students to master, which you can see below.  Lisa Nielsen, in her blog post “Should the new math be financial literacy?” states “we have lost focus on preparing young people for what will matter in their real lives. If the education system were to provide some financial literacy classes for kids, it could make a tremendous difference in the economic success of society”. Let’s examine some ways you can easily embed their literacies across the curriculum.



Economic literacy, often called financial literacy, according to Atomic Learning, “targets the importance of making appropriate economic choices on a personal level, and understanding the connection personal, business, and governmental decisions have on individuals, society, and the economy”. The report of the NASBE Commission on Financial and Investor Literacy also offers a useful definition: “Financial literacy is defined as the ability to read, analyze, manage and communicate about the personal financial conditions that affect material well-being. It includes the ability to discern financial choices, discuss money and financial issues without (or despite) discomfort, plan for the future and respond competently to life events that affect everyday financial decisions, including events in the general economy”.


Some states, such as Ohio, have an economic and financial literacy requirement in their Ohio Core state standards to be taught within social studies or another class. In their state, teachers certified in social studies, business education, marketing education, and family and consumer science are all licensed to teach financial literacy. These teachers can help develop a curriculum starting in the earliest grades to make sure these literacies are woven seamlessly throughout the curriculum at all grade levels.

The Council for Economic Education has developed a set of standards for financial literacy that start in grade three.

The strands include:

  • Earning income
  • Buying goods and services
  • Using credit
  • Saving
  • Financial investing
  • Protecting and insuring

Of course, financial literacy strands are also found in the National Business Association’s standards, the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences standards,  and state standards, such as the ones in Ohio, Oklahoma (7-12), Nebraska (K-12) and New Jersey (4-12). There are even sets of standards, such as the Jump$tart Coalition’s National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education that can serve to help you embed economic and financial literacy across the curriculum.


Discovery Education Streaming includes videos that can introduce age-appropriate content to students titled “Financial Literacy for Students” and a professional development series titled “Financial Literacy: Teach it!”

Financial literacy for students (2010)

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Financial literacy for students grades K-2

  • The meaning of money
  • Counting bills and coins
  • Writing out money: decimals and dollar signs

Financial literacy for students grades 3-5

  • Earning power
  • Needs versus wants
  • saving for a goal
  • What do banks do?

Financial literacy for students grades 6-8

  • Creating a budget
  • Savings account
  • Checking account
  • How to use a debit card and ATM

Financial literacy for students grades 9-12

  • Security and banking online
  • Figuring interest
  • Rewards and risks of credit cards
  • Getting a loan: car, school, or home
  • Long-term savings and investing


Financial literacy: Teach it! (2009)

teachit fin lit



  • Penny the  pig
  • Credit clues
  • Career cards
  • Classroom economy
  • Charity presentations
  • Insurance and floods

Grades 5-8

  • Just interest
  • Comparing graham crackers
  • Financial goal setting
  • Dream cities

Grades 9-12

  • Debt consultants



In addition to economic and financial literacy associations, there are investment firms, banks, and government agencies who provide both online and offline material to help you weave financial literacy across the curriculum.

  • Council for Economic Education: EconEdLink Personal Finance
    • Includes lesson plans, up-to-date information, economic data and Web links for educators
    • Interactive tools and lessons for students
  • Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission (US):
    • Information, games and fun facts about money, saving and planning for the future
    • Curricula, lesson plans, tip sheets, guidance and helpful tools for teaching financial capability
    • Clearinghouse of federally-funded research reports, articles and data sets on financial capability and related topics
  • United States Mint: Financial Literacy
    • Activities and lesson plans about coin to promote basic economic understanding for students
  • Fox Business: The Centsables
    • A cable program support page with comic books dealing with financial literacy topics
  • Federal Reserve Bank (US): Lesson Plans
    • Lesson plans for K-12 dealing with financial literacy; includes a literature tie-in
    • Games and simulations for K-12 students
  •  Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company: The Mint
    • Interactive scenarios for kids and teens dealing with saving, spending, protecting, and entrepreneurship
  • H&R Block: Dollars and Sense
    • Provides and gathers ideas, news, tips, and tricks for teachers and students in the area of investing and savings
  • University of Nebraska- Omaha Center for Education: Economic Education Web
    • K-12 concepts and lessons plans for economic and financial literacy as well as links to data sets
    • Special THEN (Teach History and Economics in Education), a 4th grade curricular tie-in
  • Canadian Centre for Financial Literacy: Activity worksheets
    • A curriculum for financial literacy with a handbook and worksheets for adults or high schoolers


Do you have any special financial literacy sites, apps, or ideas that you use with your students? Please share in the comments!




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  1. Bill Cowan said:

    Hi there:
    I really liked your blog. It is good to see that \Financial Literacy\ is moving toward the school curriculum. Just before I retired as a teacher in Ontario I wrote a series of stories in a book on financial literacy. A sample lesson and a digital copy of the book can be found at \Teacherspayteachets\ website.
    Bill Cowan

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  5. Taryn Hailstock said:

    I love the connection of Financial Literacy to current curriculum! My Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. focuses on financial literacy with both youth and adults and this will be a great addition! Thank you!

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  7. middleschoollit2015 said:

    I really enjoyed this blog because this relates to real world experiences. As part of the curriculum that I teach wants us to relate the content to real life experience something that my students can use in school and out. This is great!

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  16. Sente Mortgage said:

    Your blog was very interesting and informative. And like how you used real life experiences to make a it more comprehensive.

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  19. Michael Morrison said:

    The organization iCivics developed a great unit plan about financial literacy called Government & the Market. The unit includes the following lessons: The Market Economy; Government & the Economy; Taxation; Government Spending; and Banks, Credit, and the Economy. You can find the lessons at

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