We’ve been running a classroom economy all year. Children are paid cash for fulfilling basic expectations: attendance, chore completion, etc. Additional bonuses are paid for going the extra mile or finishing ahead of schedule, or to reinforce spontaneous, positive social acts. (“Thanks for helping me clean that up! Here’s a buck.”)
This has been a fantastic, low-level tool to help reinforce mental math skills, memory, and general ideas about currency. This week, however, we’ve taken it to another level by introducing The Bank.
Each child has a checking account into/from which they may make deposits/withdrawals. They may also move money between students’ accounts by writing checks, and The Bank and The Store now only accept checks; no more cash.
I still remember learning how to write a check in second grade as vividly as if it were yesterday; I’m hoping this is at least somewhat as influential. Even though it’s possible that this skill (the use of paper screed to manage money? in analog? how quaint!) will be obsolete or deprecated by the time this generation is an age where that’s important, it’s still helpful. We also introduce the children to the delights of cumbersome bureaucratic entities; The Bank is open for transactions only during the convenient hours of 09:30-09:45 on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I’ve already heard the children reciting their transaction histories to one another from memory. Furthermore, understanding money in abstract terms above and beyond the physicality of cash is important; associating their hard-earned lucre with an intangible but still-real number will be relevant for the rest of their lives. Finally, the pride of ownership and the benefits of diligent savings can be made more concrete as they watch that number creep higher.
Lessons on tax evasion, bribery, and dummy corporations have been reserved for later, undetermined dates.