Why financial literacy is gaining ground in K-12

21 states now require high school to take a personal finance course
By: | February 10, 2020
Financial literacy in math courses can be combined with the algebra, probability, and statistics skills students need to make sound personal finance decisions. (Katie Harp/Unsplash)Financial literacy in math courses can be combined with the algebra, probability, and statistics skills students need to make sound personal finance decisions. (Katie Harp/Unsplash)

Financial literacy is a growing priority in K-12.

High school students in 21 states are now required to take a personal finance course, says a CNBC report on a new study from the Council for Economic Education.

And 45 states now include financial literacy in their K-12 curriculum standards though only 37 states require local school districts to implement the standards, according to CNBC.

“We have finally hit on the fact that requirements really matter,” Nan Morrison, CEO of the Council for Economic Education, told CNBC. “Student debt is still a challenge and, with rise of gig economy and more people responsible for their financial lives, more people are realizing we have to put this in our schools.”

CNBC also provided a state-by-state breakdown of personal finance instruction that covers topics such as how to pay for college, taking out loans and loan repayment, avoiding payday lenders and credit card debt.

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For educators who want to bring add financial literacy lessons to their classes, the National Education Association offers resources on its website, including the National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education.

To help students connect what they’re learning in math to personal finance, financial analyst Andrew Davidson has established a non-profit, the Financial Life Cycle Education Corp., also known as FiCycle.

FiCycle’s for-credit high school math course combines principles of personal finance with the algebra, probability, and statistics skills needed to make financial decisions, Davidson wrote in District Administration last year.

“By combining personal finance and math, we have created a course where students who previously didn’t see the value of math become engaged and excited to use mathematics,” Davidson wrote. “They now see it as a tool to solve the very problems that they know will arise in their lives.”

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Adding to the urgency around financial literacy is the fact that about 1 in 5 U.S. 15-year-olds don’t understand basic financial concepts, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

When personal finance is taught in schools, students can share the newfound personal finance skills with their families, Tim Ranzetta, founder of curriculum developer Next Gen Personal Finance, told The New York Times. 

“If you teach the kids, you teach the parents,” Ranzetta told the Times. 

But financial literacy has met some pushback. In North Carolina, some educators fear a new required personal finance requirement course in social studies could squeeze out a U.S. history requirement, The News & Observer reported.

Some teachers in the state want to increase the focus on economics in civics courses instead of creating a new, standalone course, according to The News & Observer.

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