The classroom economy program is an effective and enjoyable way to teach your students fundamental financial literacy components without altering your curriculum.
Implementing the program is an easy three-step process:
As they perform their tasks, the students will help you manage the classroom and, in the process, learn valuable skills—such as responsibility, the value of saving, and delayed gratification—that they will carry with them throughout life.
The program is experiential so there is no need to formally teach the lessons. Your students will actively participate and learn as a result. As one teacher told us, there's a thrill in seeing "the lightbulb go on" when a student realizes he or she should have saved money for the next month's rent instead of overpaying for an item at the auction.
Through My Classroom Economy, students learn valuable life skills in an experiential way.
Specifically, they are able to:
At this grade level, students earn and spend dollar amounts of three and four digits to match their math skills. They are also given more responsibility to maintain financial records—for example, bank slips for deposits and withdrawals—to emphasize the importance of recordkeeping and attention to detail. The documents also provide key data for reflection during the year-end wrap-up.
For teachers of advanced Grade 6 students, consider adding advanced modules to the program, or even using the Grades 7–8 program as an alternative.
The classroom economy is designed in an experiential way to ensure that it supplements rather than interferes with a classroom's core curriculum. It allows students to learn valuable life skills and make progress on topics that are integral to the curriculum. This page is designed to help you make connections between common lessons and the experience of the classroom economy.
Our connections are based on the Common Core State Standards.
My Classroom Economy
Attend to precision.
Each student is required to maintain a bank log of his or her finances. The individual student's log and the Banker's log of client accounts must be kept in balance.
|Use place-value understanding and properties of operations to perform multi-digit arithmetic.||Students' bank accounts can grow from as little as $50 to as much as several thousand dollars. To keep an accurate log, they will need to perform multi-digit arithmetic.|
|Fluently add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.||Students are required to complete bank transactions using the standard algorithm.|
Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on web pages) and explain how the information contributes to the understanding of the text in which it appears.
Students must read and interpret bank logs and bank slips and explain how these collateral items are used in the classroom economy.
Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
Students are required to complete a job application naming three jobs they want and the reasons they think they should have those jobs. Essentially, the students must state their case for being awarded a particular job.
The classroom economy is a perfect complement to a supply-and-demand unit. Specifically, you can discuss how items at the auction are in high demand (everyone wants them), but the supply is low (only one set of markers, for example), which drives the price up. (Note: Social studies standards are not a part of the Core Standards.)
The classroom economy is designed to help students learn about financial literacy from an early age. This page is intended to support you in connecting common financial literacy standards with the experience of the classroom economy.
Our program addresses many of the standards included in the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy's National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education.
My Classroom Economy
|Financial responsibility and decision-making
Take responsibility for personal financial decisions.
|Students must make their rent payments in order to participate in the monthly auction. When a student misses a payment, teachers have the opportunity to discuss decision-making with the student and help him or her to get back on track.|
|Make financial decisions by systematically considering alternatives and consequences.||Students are constantly presented with decision points in the classroom economy program. From career choice, to actions that result in fines and bonuses, to whether or not to purchase items at the auction, to decisions around taking a loan, students must consider their actions and the alternatives to be successful in the program.|
|Income and careers
Explore career options.
|Students must apply for a job in the classroom economy. The jobs range in difficulty and responsibility. By holding a job themselves and observing their peers, students are exposed to a wide variety of job types.|
|Identify sources of personal income.||Students must understand that their salary alone will not cover their rent so they must identify additional income sources. In most cases the additional money will come from bonus opportunities, but some teachers may encourage entrepreneurial behavior as well.|
|Planning and money management
Develop a plan for spending and saving.
|Students continually update their bank logs based on their inflows and outflows. Because the program offers incentives for saving, such as the purchasing of one's desk or purchasing an item at the auction, students must develop a plan for saving and spending.|
|Develop a system for keeping and using financial records.||Students must keep a bank log for all transactions. Additionally, students who hold the role of the Banker must keep a log for themselves as well as several clients.|
|Develop a personal financial plan.||Students must develop their own financial plan to meet their individual goals. Some students may have the simple goal of making rent each month, while others might have lofty goals such as paying off their desk or purchasing several items at the auction. Regardless of the goal, each student must develop a plan to meet it.|
|Saving and investing
Discuss how saving contributes to financial well-being.
|Students experience what it is like to make or miss rent payments. They also observe their classmates and their financial situations. Throughout the program it is natural for students to discuss their situations and elaborate on their decisions that put them there.|
Begin planning your classroom economy before the school year starts.
Allow 2 to 3 hours to choose jobs, bonuses, and fines, and an additional 2 to 3 hours to prepare all of the materials.Introductory activities
On or near the first day of school, introduce your students to the classroom economy. Approximately a week after the introduction, assign jobs to students and provide short training sessions.
Allot a portion of 2 to 3 class periods to complete these activities. Keep in mind, this time does not need to be taken from your curriculum schedule, because it can replace time that you would otherwise spend explaining your class rules and establishing procedures.Ongoing activities
Every month students earn paychecks and bonus money, pay fines, pay rent for their desks, and purchase prizes at auctions—all with classroom economy currency. Although students may need more time and guidance at the beginning of the school year, they typically will become more efficient at banking as the year progresses. To avoid interfering with the curriculum, we encourage you to have students do their banking during transition periods, such as at the beginning and end of the class period. You might also allow students to work on classroom economy activities when they finish curriculum materials early.Year-end wrap-up
Bring the classroom economy program to an end by encouraging a group discussion and giving students a chance to reflect. Distribute certificates to highlight student successes.
Allow approximately 1 class period for the year-end wrap-up.
To start the classroom economy program, you'll need to select:
Your selections can be from the lists we provide or based on the classroom rules you've already developed. As an option, you may choose to involve your students in creating the bonus and fine lists.
Once the lists are ready, post them in your classroom and refer to them throughout the year. If you wish, you can use materials from this site for the posters and handouts.
Every student in the class needs a job. You can select jobs from the list below, and you can create additional jobs to meet the specific needs of your classroom. We do recommend that you include four core jobs: Banker, Fine Officer, Messenger, and Clerk.
Each job needs an appropriate salary. The highest pay should go to the most responsible positions.
This list shows suggested duties and monthly pay for some of the more common jobs.
|Jobs||Job Description||Monthly Salary|
1 for every
|Keep banking records for about five students. Accept money for deposits. Pay out money for withdrawals. Keep some cash ready to meet requests. Deposit remaining cash in the Central Classroom Bank.
Requires a recommendation.
1 for every
|Check the teacher's offense log for violations of class rules. Hand out fine tickets to students who break the rules. Keep a record of fines and payments. Deposit money from fines in the Fine Folder.
Requires a recommendation.
1–2 per class
|Allow students to acquire loans for a set amount. Hand out loan slips and calculate interest. Keep a record of all loans. Work with the Banker to deposit money from the students' accounts.||$650|
2–3 per class
|Hand out papers to students. Hand out materials such as art supplies. Collect papers or homework from students when asked. Organize the class supply shelves and keep them neat.||$600|
1–2 per class
|Deliver written or spoken messages to people throughout the building. Answer the class phone.||$550|
3–5 per class
|Keep the writing boards and countertops clean. Tidy up classroom areas when they need it. Make sure recycling items are placed where they should be.||$600|
1 per class
|Keep a record of books checked out of the class library. Remind students to return the books if they are late. Keep the class library organized. Take books to the school library as scheduled.||$550|
1 per class
|Take daily attendance and record absences. Report absences to the teacher. Provide students with make-up materials when they return to class.||$600|
1–2 per class
|Keep a daily record of students' completed homework assignments. Inform Fine Officers about incomplete or missing homework so they can write fine tickets.||$550|
1–2 per class
|Perform the job of any absent student.||$400|
1–2 per class
|Turn the lights and computers on or off at appropriate times. Assist with technology tasks such as setting up projectors, preparing cameras, or using audio equipment.||$550|
1 per class
|Keep a detailed record of all classroom equipment. Borrow and return gym equipment when necessary.||$500|
1 per class
|Water plants at regular times. Clean up fallen leaves or petals from plant pots. Dispose of dead plants when necessary.||$450|
1–2 per class
|Manage the school store. Keep a record of inventory.||$500|
1 per class
|Keep the class updated on current events. Research topics of interest to the class. Write articles for the class newsletter.||$550|
1 per class
|Check daily weather forecasts and report them to the class. Keep a record of weather that occurs throughout the year.||$550|
The obligation to pay rent is central to the classroom economy. These are key concepts:
|One-time desk purchase price||$3,000|
|Failure to pay rent
We recommend that students who miss a rent payment be excluded from that month's auction. Although you may instead choose other privileges to be forfeited, remember that the program is designed to help students learn financial responsibility—it is not to punish them.
When students miss rent payments, it's important to get them back on track as soon as possible. You can take the missed payment as an opportunity for a discussion about choices, then encourage the child to earn bonuses so that he or she can catch up on rent and get in on the Auction Day fun.Successful saving
Students who make their rent payments and manage to save additional money can reap rewards:
In addition to the salaries students earn from their jobs, they can earn bonus money by performing well academically and participating in extracurricular activities. Students need to earn bonuses to succeed in the classroom economy. In addition, they can be useful incentives for your own class goals.
The following bonuses should be included if at all possible. The dollar amounts listed are simply suggestions.
|Earn 100% on a small test or quiz.||$50|
|Earn 100% on a major test.||$200|
|Earn 90% to 99% on any assignment.||$100|
|Complete an outside reading assignment.||$100|
|Get a compliment from another teacher.||$200|
|Join in an extracurricular activity.||$100|
In the classroom economy, the role of fines is to help students understand costs and consequences—it is not to punish them. The list of fines should be short and direct, matching your classroom priorities. Our list is an example.
|Messy desk or cubby||$100|
Although the Fine Officers write tickets for fines, you control the process through an offense log. As you correct a student, you can mention that you're adding the violation to the log. Then, when Ticket Day comes, the Fine Officers write tickets based on the entries in your log. In this way you retain explicit authority over dealing with misbehavior.
Loans are available to students through the Loan Officer. Interest for these loans will be front-end loaded. Therefore, there will be no accruing interest. If a student receives a loan for $100 with 20% interest, he or she will have to pay back $120 over a term. Here are the key concepts:
Throughout the year, you will need classroom economy materials, such as money, banking paperwork for students, and handouts. You can download the materials or order printed copies for free. Gathering and preparing materials will take approximately 2 to 3 hours.Supplies
In addition to the materials we provide, you may wish to purchase or gather the following items.
|No. 10 business envelopes so students can conveniently hold their cash.||2 per student (1 is kept by the student and the other is kept by the Banker)|
|Portfolio folders with clasps where students can store their bank logs and other materials.||1 per student|
|Cash drawer or box to store excess cash. Create one from a shoe box or use an item from an old board game, such as Monopoly.||1 per class|
|Popsicle sticks or paint stirrers for auction paddles.||1 per student|
|Sticky notes for convenience during auctions.||1 slip per student per auction|
|A clipboard where you can hold the offense log to keep track of fines.||1 per class|
|Items for students to purchase at auctions, such as toys, baked goods, or gift certificates.||3–7 per auction|
Put the following items in each student folder:
We suggest keeping an offense log where you can keep a record of when students disobey the rules. The Fine Officers can write tickets based on what you write on the offense log. Using this system, the Fine Officers are involved, but you maintain the ultimate authority.Cash box
Create a cash box with three slots, one for each denomination. This is where the class will hold excess cash throughout the year. We recommend that each Banker only hold about $2,000 in cash, and store the rest in the cash box.Visual displays
When presenting and explaining the classroom economy to your students, we recommend using visual displays to aid their understanding. In particular, it is a good idea to display the jobs list, bonus money opportunities, and fines you will use in your classroom.
You may print and display our versions or create your own displays and presentations. Some suggestions include:
|Posters (jobs, bonuses, fines)|
Print individual copies of display items and place them into each student's folder.Print classroom economy cash
To start, print about $7,000 in classroom economy cash:
|$50 bills||42 (seven sheets)|
|$100 bills||18 (three sheets)|
|$500 bills||6 (one sheet)|
For the activities throughout the year, you will need the following materials:
|Job offer letters||Job assignment|
|Fine tickets||Ticket day|
|Unpaid rent notice||Rent day|
|Deed to desk||Rent day|
|Auction record form||Auction|
Think ahead about items your students might like to purchase at the classroom auctions. Gather both tangible and intangible rewards.
In the year-end wrap-up, you could allow your students to pool their money and purchase a class reward, such as:
Teachers who are comfortable with the classroom economy may want to include some of these additional modules to enhance the learning experience for their students. These are not recommended for teachers implementing the program for the first time. Be certain your students understand the underlying curriculum components before adding these modules.Real estate investments
Taking property ownership a step further, allow students to purchase the deeds to other students' desks. In this situation, a student whose desk is purchased now pays the rent to a landlord instead of the bank. We recommend you insist the rent remain at the bank's original price so that students can't force students out of their desks by driving up the rent too high!Taxes
Students are required to pay income taxes around April 15. Depending on your students' math skills, you can set taxes at a percentage of their earned income or at a flat dollar amount. You can also give students tax deductions for charitable contributions—either by donating classroom dollars or by donating time to actual community service events.Inflation
After returning from a break in the school year (e.g., winter or spring break), raise the prices of students' desks based on inflation. You can also raise their salaries, but we suggest you raise the price of the desks more than any salary increase to stress the importance of saving and outpacing inflation. Depending on your students' math skills, you can make inflation a flat amount (e.g., $50) or a percentage of the current economy (e.g., 3%).Student auctions
Allow students to bring their own items to be sold at the auctions. Require the students to pay a percentage of total sales back to the bank. For example, if the selling fee is 10%, a student who brings an item in and sells it for $1,000 at the auction will keep $900 and pay $100 to the bank for the right to sell. This helps students to understand vendor fees, which are common for internet commerce sites such as PayPal, eBay, and StubHub.Disaster relief
Require students to pay a fixed amount (e.g., $100) for disaster relief. This can be especially effective if you are studying disasters in science or social studies. For example, if you are studying hurricanes in science class, you can pretend there is a hurricane in your classroom and everyone must pay to fix the damage.Emergency funds
Help students prepare for their future by establishing an emergency fund. Assist the students in determining their monthly expenses, and then encourage them to build a nest egg that is greater than or equal to that amount. The overall purpose of this module is to teach students the importance of saving in a liquid investment such as a bank savings account, so they are prepared for unexpected situations that can occur in life. By building an emergency fund, students will be prepared to pay their bills, even if they do not receive bonus money or if they lose their job. Keep in mind, anytime students use their emergency fund, they will have to devise a plan to replenish it.Insurance
Require your students (or simply give them the option) to pay renter's insurance on their desks. With the insurance, the students are given special benefits, such as being able to participate in the auction if they cannot pay the entire rent amount.Interest
Allow students to accrue interest if they keep their money at the bank. Have Bankers pay interest monthly using a percentage.
On the first day of the program, you explain the rules and expectations of the classroom economy as you would with any classroom management system.
Welcome the students and inform them that they'll be earning and spending money throughout the year. Pass out the student folders you created.
Use your visual displays as you explain these key concepts:
If you like to include your students in creating class rules and policies, feel free to let them suggest additional bonus opportunities, fines, and auction items.
Once you collect all the students' applications and any needed recommendations, take a few days to plan the job assignments. It's best to make the assignments in class about a week after the students apply.
For the Bankers and Fine Officers, you need to decide which students will be their "clients." They should be assigned four to six students each. (It's a good idea to use the same groups for each purpose, so that the same set of students would share a Fine Officer and a Banker.)
For each Fine Officer, prepare a folder listing the names of his or her clients. Put some blank fine tickets in the folder.
For each Banker, prepare a folder listing the clients' names and containing the following items:
Prepare a simple job offer letter for each student. (Our template has blanks for the job title and the student's name.)
Finally, plan an assignment that students can work on quietly at their seats. While the class works, you'll be able to train small groups of students on their job responsibilities.
Inform the students that they'll receive their job assignments today and will start earning their salaries.
Deliver the job offer letters. Each student should sign the letter and place it in his or her folder.
Next, train students for their jobs:
Here are tips for teaching two of the more complicated jobs.
If time allows, you may want to have all the students practice a bank transaction. For example, you could have each student deposit $200, and then withdraw that $200. (Afterward, you might let them keep the money as a bonus for good behavior.)
On the first Payday, you'll need to explain how the process works.
The video below will show students an example of the banking procedures, and explain how to enter a deposit in the bank log.
Then the class can begin the Payday process. After distributing bonuses, you can oversee the students and answer any questions.
Each Banker should keep about $2,000 in the bank folder at all times. The Banker should place any excess cash in the classroom cash box.
On Ticket Day, students must pay the fines that have been assessed since the last Ticket Day.
On the first Ticket Day, explain that students who were fined for violating class rules over the past month need to pay up now. They'll have to withdraw the money from their bank accounts.
The video below will help explain the process. Then the students can begin the Ticket Day procedures while you oversee them and answer any questions.
On the first Rent Day, explain to the students that paying rent for their desks is one of their most important financial responsibilities. It's so important that unless they pay their rent, they won't be allowed to participate in Auction Day.
Emphasize the importance of planning and watching their spending so they'll always have the rent money ready when it's due.
Remind the students that they can escape rent payments altogether if they're able to save up $3,000 to buy the deed to their desk. Strongly encourage them to do this.
The video below will help explain the procedures for the first time.
On each following Rent Day, ask if anyone is able to purchase his or her desk that month. If a student can do so, celebrate the child and make a show of handing over the deed.
A student who buys a desk takes the $3,000 to his or her Banker along with the deed (not the rent log). The Banker marks the student's rental "Paid in full."Follow-up Discussion
Paying rent is a strong indicator that students are successful in the classroom economy program. If a student can't pay rent, it is important to get him or her back on track as soon as possible. The Unpaid rent slip is a mechanism to keep you informed about students who fall behind so you can reach out to them. You can encourage these children to participate in more activities so they'll earn enough bonus money to catch up on rent and get in on the Auction Day fun.
The auction is an important component of the classroom economy. It lets the students reward themselves for working diligently to earn money. From a learning perspective, it links directly to the concept of supply and demand, and students quickly discover how impulse buying can shrink a bank account. In addition, children look forward to the auction because it is fun.
We recommend conducting auctions because they can be done quickly yet are extremely effective in teaching financial responsibility. However, you may prefer to use a school store as an alternative. You can open the store daily or weekly, allowing students to purchase as many items as they can afford.
Throughout the year, gather items and rewards for students to bid for at auctions.
Make sure each student will have an auction paddle or another way to bid. If you wish, you can use our auction paddle template to create your own paddles or to have the students make their own.
Prepare to show the auction video below to the class.
Have the students watch the auction video below.
Explain that they can only spend the amount of money they have in their bank accounts, and that they're not required to purchase anything. This is a good time to reinforce the importance of saving, and to remind the students that they have the ability to buy the deed to their desks and thus escape rent payments forever.
It's also important to emphasize that an auction bid is a binding contract, and there's no going back on it, even if they later wish that they hadn't spent the money.
If necessary, explain the auction procedures before beginning the auction.
Before the auction starts, allow students to quickly confirm their bank log balances with the Bankers so everyone knows what he or she can spend.
After the auction, each winning bidder needs to withdraw cash from the bank to pay for items bought. Do not give an item to the student until you receive the cash.
At this point some students may decide they bid too much and no longer want the item they won. It is very important that you require them to purchase it anyway. The auction is a vital tool in teaching the lesson of buyer's remorse.
To make the payment, each student should:
After an auction, some students will feel overwhelmed because they got caught up in the action and spent most or all of their money. This can be a tremendous learning opportunity.
You could use some of the following questions to guide a discussion:
Plan a time near the end of the year for students to reflect on what they have learned in the program and for you to tie everything together.
It is also a time to celebrate the students' successes and reward them for their hard work.Certificates
Students who were able to save a significant amount during the year should be rewarded. We recommend passing out certificates to students who met the following savings thresholds:
Hold a discussion with your students to reinforce what they have learned.
Here are some questions you can ask to guide the discussion:
Allow students to pool their money together and purchase a class reward, such as: