It suddenly struck me the other day as I was paying for shopping with a contactless card that, with the increased use of contactless payments and credit cards, it is almost unusual for children to see real money being used in exchange for shopping, coffees, fares etc. So an understanding of money, amounts, and the useful maths skills that go with it doesn’t happen naturally as it did twenty years ago for example.
When kids see money practically changing hands – and can get their hands on it themselves – it reinforces the more academic maths they’ll be doing via the curriculum. But the way we use our money nowadays, so much of it online, denies the children opportunities of real contact and consequential learning about using it – and where it comes from!
Learning about money, for small kids, needs to be practical – so perhaps we should revert to using it the old fashioned way. Let them count it, hold it, play with it and chat about coinage and their values. This could develop into counting in twos, fives, tens, twenties, etc, which in turn develops skills that are transferable to all numerical computation like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing, for example.
So using cash can be a useful approach to show children how numbers and money work. If they can see it happening in front of them for real, get to handle and play with it physically, (using single pennies too as counters – while we still have them!) it helps reinforce their understanding and supports their wider mathematical learning.
- Keep a stock of coins for youngsters to play with and count and use for a play ‘shop’
- Use cash instead of cards to pay for small things whilst they’re out with you so they can see the exchange
- As they get older allow them their own pocket money, or allowance, and see what they can buy with it
- Talk about how you earn money in exchange for the work you do and how you spend accordingly
- Some find it helpful to provide the opportunity for youngsters to do ‘jobs’ in return for ‘earnings’
- Talk to your older children about finance in a positive proactive way, what financial commitments you have and how you handle them.
A regular criticism of young people is that many of them finish their education with paper qualifications but without the important life skill of handling their finances, even though supposedly they can do the maths. So beyond teaching the smallest of our kids about coins and money value, it’s also important that older children go on to understand the wider implications of cash and credit, of living within your means, and how to avoid getting into debt. We can do this by openly discussing the way we use money, what we have to pay for and how we budget.
Using cash for transactions – whilst we still can – is a useful base for these skills. And to talk about money openly as a practical, rather than emotive, subject is a way to continue to reinforce them.
There’s some further interesting reading on money habits on the Money Advice Service website if you need it.