I have asked teachers I know who are teaching financial concepts in their classrooms to contribute their stories to this blog, this is the first of what I hope will be many to come, courtesy of Maria, a 3rd grade teacher.

My students are third graders and we had a great time using a tool from The Math Forum. It illustrated the difference between gross and net pay by showing the students how to calculate deductions for federal income tax, social security and medicare. The outcome that I was aiming for was twofold:

1. I wanted my students to understand that you don’t get to take home all of the money that you make and

2. The money that is taken out of our pay goes toward running the city and to take care of us when we are older.

It was very exciting for them because they didn’t have any prior knowledge about payroll deductions. They were actually a bit upset and angered because they didn’t want to part with any of their money. This led to another interesting conversation about how the city has bills to pay. First we talked about how their parents have to pay bills and then it segued into the city. We started talking about how tax dollars go towards repairing roads and streets and bridges and tunnels and city workers. The connection to their parents and bills really helped them to understand that the city has bills to pay. This also led to a question: How does the city make its money? From here, we talked about how collecting taxes from people is not the only way the city makes money. I asked if they had any ideas how the city could make money besides charging taxes. One student said, “The city could charge a fee for using the stores.” Then I asked them if they ever crossed a bridge or went through a tunnel and what they had to do either at the beginning or the end of it. Here, they had an “a ha” moment and said in unison, “Paid a toll”. We could have gone on all day with this one activity as it opened up so many sub-topics and conversations. I hadn’t expected it to go this far but was pleasantly surprised by it.

Even though my students are very young, I feel that it is so important to introduce them things that they will have to do as adults.