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Financial literacy teaching “outdated”

With the use of cash declining and cashless, contactless payments on the rise, it makes no sense that our children are still using toy coins and notes to practice maths in school, according to Wellington-based financial educator Dean Blair.

The Ministry of Education’s math website nzmaths.co.nz for teachers and students has a collection of resources to teach math using play money, and homework that uses money based exercises to practice math are commonplace, but Mr Blair says coins and notes aren’t a representation of the real world.

“Real world scenarios are a great way to practice how to work with numbers, and it can be the first time our kids interact with the idea of spending, but the problem is when they grow up its eftpos and credit, not coins and bills.”

Mr Blair says the outdated real world scenarios for math exercises is a missed opportunity from a very early age to ingrain the same “sensation of loss” you get when spending cash that you get when spending with an eftpos or credit card.

“There’s a lot of research that shows we spend more money when using plastic than we ever would with actual cash because we don’t have the sensation of loss of money, and I’ve learnt that this dissociation is starting at the primary school age, but I can’t help but wonder if it’s because kids aren’t practising money based math problems related to the use of eftpos and credit cards.” 

Mr Blair runs financial literacy boot camps in schools to teach kids about saving and spending, and said the response when asking the children if a $20 note or an eftpos card buys you more in the store was worrying.

“I asked the children if they bought ten things for $2 each whether they could afford it with the cash, and separately could they afford it with the card? When asked if they could go further and buy another item, they knew they couldn’t afford it with the cash, but most assumed they could with the card. There’s an attitude that plastic is a bottomless pit of money from a very early age.” 

“It wouldn’t be difficult to create math resources where scenarios included pretend credit cards and eftpos, where calculating and accumulating interest to understand debt was a factor in the exercise.”

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