One of the most useful aspects of math is the fact that we use it to organize, control, plan, and spend our money. Math education that focuses on money is an essential component of a well-rounded education. Sadly, many schools barely cover this and instead go for rote problem solving that doesn’t bring the real world into it. Thankfully, you can teach your kids to use math to manage their money from a young age.
You can teach these concepts to all ages by just telling them what they need to know using the language that they understand. For example, to someone in elementary school, you can explain that a bank keeps the money safe like a piggy bank does at home. Harder concepts can be taught after your child has mastered at least addition, subtraction, and basic multiplication.
Grades K–2 – One thing you can teach children at this age is about delayed gratification and opportunity cost. This is an important concept to grasp before learning about compound interest, which may be a few years away. But for now, you can teach your child about how to delay their gratification to enjoy it more later when it comes to other aspects of their life.
Elementary School – At this age, it’s time to start assigning chores and an allowance. When you do give an allowance, it’s important to not just tell your child they can spend it as they desire; instead, teach them how to plan, save, and budget their money using their math skills. For example, if they want to buy a bike and they need to contribute $30, how long will it take them to save for it?
Middle School – Now that your child is in middle school, they likely have more expenses than before. It’s a good idea at this age to start giving them more control over their own budget and what they spend. If you normally spend two dollars every day on their lunch, for example, you can give them all the money in their allowance and let them budget that, or add to it with an odd job or other money if they want more. This is also a good time to start following stocks to learn about them.
High School – At this time, it’s good to set up your child with a checking and savings account of their own if they don’t already have one. Most kids will have a savings account by this age; if they don’t have a checking account, it’s time to open one with some of the savings. Then they can learn how to manage the money and balance the account. At this time, your child can choose to use some of their savings to open a 401K account of some kind so they can watch how compound interest works.
College – Give your child an allowance and help them set up a budget as you did before. Often, kids who were exposed to budgeting previously will do this automatically once they start college. The budget will help your child complete college with less debt by tracking what they really need.
A great site to look at for learning about financials and using math to manage finance is the website for the Consumer Finance Office of the US Government. They have some great lessons for all ages about managing and using money, and using math to manage money.