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Intellect

Teaching personal finance to fifth graders "pays off" for BYU grad students

Teaching 10-year-olds how to balance a checkbook and live within a budget may seem like a futile task - especially when money management befuddles many adults. But Marriott School graduate students at Brigham Young University have seen success teaching basic finance to fifth grade students throughout Utah County.

This semester, teams of Marriott students implemented a personal finance curriculum in seven fifth-grade classrooms at Mapleton Elementary, Sunset View Elementary, and Hobble Creek Elementary. Each team visits an assigned classroom throughout the semester and teaches basic finance skills in three units: budgeting, money management and saving and investing. The curriculum - introduced at several schools in fall 2004 - is being repeated because it was so popular with children and teachers.

"There needs to be awareness," says Boyce Campbell, a fifth-grade teacher at Geneva Elementary. "Young kids often think money grows on trees. This curriculum helps them understand the responsibility that comes with having money."

The new curriculum being taught by Marriott students was developed by finance professor Grant McQueen, who also oversees the project. He worked with grad student Asunta Forgione to assemble materials that would require minimal teacher preparation yet still hold a child's attention.

While some may argue that fifth graders are too young to fully grasp personal finance principles, McQueen thinks it is important to introduce these concepts at a young age. "Fifth graders are old enough to do math but young enough to be impressionable," he says.

When Marriott students teach personal finance at elementary schools, they keep children interested by using interactive games and activities. During one lesson, fifth graders are asked to create a family budget -allocating money for specific purposes such as rent, food, transportation, and vacations. Students at Geneva Elementary found the job harder than expected.

"At the end they were over budget about two thousand dollars and had to think what they could cut out," Campbell says. "Because the activities were relevant and meaningful to the students, they got involved."

By implementing a personal finance curriculum in elementary schools, project directors hope to help young students and their families become better financial stewards. They also want Marriott School students to use their academic skills to serve others.

For BYU student Linda Bailey, teaching finance to fifth graders fulfilled a service requirement for her personal finance course taught by Bryan Sudweeks. Each semester, Sudweeks asks his students to spend at least three hours presenting course material in their community. While some complete the assignment by frequenting fifth-grade classrooms, others teach in their home or serve as personal finance merit badge counselors for the Boy Scouts of America.

"It's been one of the most memorable parts of the class for me," Bailey says. "I'm glad it's a requirement because sometimes we get so caught up in our homework and schedules that we forget how good it feels to serve."

Writer: Sara Chamberlin

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