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In this lesson we’ll explore ways to utilize game-based learning to help students gain greater financial literacy. A listing of quality financial literacy games is provided and a short quiz follows the lesson.

Financial Literacy

For many generations, it has been considered uncouth to discuss money matters in anything but the strictest of confidence. Not long ago, the only people who may have had an idea of your financial resources were your banker or accountant. Strange as it may seem, spouses used to not even know about one another’s finances at times. However, if there is anything we can learn from the numerous financial troubles in the world today, it’s that everyone needs to have a basic understanding of how to deal with money.

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Financial literacy is understanding how money works at its most basic levels. This encompasses how you manage to earn, save, and invest your money, and how and why to spend that money responsibly. Gone are the days of balancing a checkbook being the only skill required to be financially literate. Now you need to know many skills, from long-term retirement planning to understanding interest rates and borrowing terminology.Because of the somewhat taboo nature of financial matters, children often don’t learn some of these skills from their parents until it is too late. All too often these children grow into adults with little understanding of budgeting, investing, and retirement planning. In recent years this has changed, with the establishment of Financial Literacy Month and the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability.

Thanks to initiatives such as these, there has been a greater emphasis placed on in-class curriculum which reflects the necessary financial literacy skills students need to understand.One aspect of this curriculum focuses on game-based learning, which are lessons that are competitive, interactive, and allow the learner to have fun while gaining knowledge. Here we’ll highlight some examples of games which are beneficial for students because they provide excellent motivation, increase engagement, and can produce excellent learning outcomes.

Board Games

Even in today’s digital age, there is something to be said for getting down on the floor and rolling some dice or spinning a wheel. While the modern student might be resistant at first to the comparatively slow and less glamorous board game, they give students time to think about their actions and can help students become more comfortable in discussing financial matters.

Some quality options are:

  • The Game of Life – One of the oldest and greatest board games around, The Game of Life teaches a number of excellent financial skills, starting with the value of a college education. Also covered are the impacts of taxes, supporting children, legal battles, and overspending.
  • Monopoly – Another classic, Monopoly focuses on the transactional aspects of financial literacy. Students playing will learn how to manage their cash flow, negotiate financial transactions, and gain a basic understanding of return on investment.

  • Payday – A personal favorite from my childhood, Payday, as the name implies, focuses on spending and budgeting money throughout a period of time. This game does an excellent job of teaching students the basics of managing your income versus your expenses, as well as teaching the necessity of saving in the event of an emergency.

Digital Games

As much as some of us may enjoy an old fashioned board game, today’s students are used to fancy graphics, interactivity, and an in-depth experience. Luckily, there are many game developers out there who have created quality and enjoyable games which help to teach students fundamental financial skills.

  • Gen i Revolution – This game takes the form of a series of simulated missions in which students try to help a fictional character with some aspect of their finances.

    There are 16 total missions, each of which has the goal of teaching a specific skill. Examples include the 401(k) Challenge, Forecasting the Future, and Mutual Funds. The developers support each game with lessons from the Council for Economic Education.

  • Financial Soccer and Financial Football – Created by Visa, these two games are partnered with FIFA and the NFL to help teach students about responsible spending and use of credit.

    Students score by answering questions about different elements of credit use and budgeting. These games also come with different difficulty levels, gearing the question to age and financial knowledge.

  • TheMint.org – Not a specific game, this website features many fun games and activities to help students of all age levels understand responsible financial decisions. From games for grade school age students to explain how banks work to tools for college students and recent graduates to help prepare for financial independence, this website has a lot of useful information.

Lesson Summary

The games listed here are just the tip of the iceberg and I wholly encourage you to seek out further resources for your classroom.

Remember, financial literacy is as simple as the basic understanding of how money works. Students need to be taught these ideas in the same way they are taught fundamental mathematics, spelling, or science skills. Utilizing game-based learning is an excellent way to allow your students to have fun while expanding their skills and knowledge.

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