Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday Think: Meaningful Money Skills and Activities

This is only my 4th year of teaching this population of students.  Before this, I spent 14 years teaching High School Mathematics.  As such, I'm learning a lot as I go along.  One of the things that I've tried to focus on is to keep tweaking life skill tasks to ensure that they are functional for my students.  A couple of the more functional math areas that I've been thinking a lot about are ensuring that skills taught related to money and time are functional ones.  For today, I'm going to share some of the things that we are already doing with money skills as well as some of the ideas I would like to try in the future and some of my thoughts related to all of this.  It is always my hope when doing my "Thursdsay Think" to better clarify things for myself and to perhaps stimulate some sharing of ideas that will be beneficial to both myself and others. 

Here are some of the things we are doing or will be doing related to money management skills:
What do we need money for? Work on skills related to understanding of the many ways that we use money.  Include concepts related to purchasing items (food, clothing, toys, videos...etc.), purchasing services (hair, nails, fixing wheelchair, riding the bus...etc.), paying to do an activity or for a leisure activity (swimming, movies, eating out, coffee...etc.) and for living expenses (mortgage, transportation, utilities...etc.).   Obviously different students will understand things on different levels but when I originally started thinking about money it was more in reference to being in exchange for concrete items which makes exchange easy to understand.  One of the other things that I know I need to start to focus on is to have each student pay for things individually when we do a community activity so that they realize that these things are not free.

What is the difference between a "need" and a "want":  I'm thinking this should be tied in to concepts related to if you had a limited amount of money what should you buy first?  When you are looking at budgeting your money for the month, what things do you have to pay for before paying for the "extras". 
Item Choice: There are so many opportunities for self-determination here.  Students can make choices related to items off a list, items from a menu, items that are in the store or being held up in front of them...etc.  One of the expansions here would also be to show how items can cost different amounts.  So a student can make a choice between spending $80 on one fancy hoodie or going to a bargain store and buying two hoodies and a pair of jeans type of thing.  Would have to do a lot of visual work with some of the students but its important to understand that sometimes taste/preference and money have to be balanced in decision making.  Another area where choice can come in to play is which store to go to purchase a certain item.

Money Exchange Process:  This one is one that immediately comes to mind when dealing with money skills.  What is the sequence that we follow when we go to a store to buy something.  What social skills do we have to learn to go through the check out?  What communication skills do we need?  Communication skills need to be related to what we say to the person working at the store but for many of our students we also need to focus on the communications that they should be having with the person who is there to suppor them through the purchasing process to ensure that they are the ones driving the process. 

Communication Systems:  This really applies to the concept explained above but it would also be important to explore the right type of communication system for each individual when they are working on hands-on-activities related to money exchange. 

Rounding Up to Next Dollar:  I only have some students who I feel would come to understand this concept although we expose all of them to it.  When we are making a purchase we look at rounding the value up to the next dollar so we know how much money we should be giving when we check out.  We also know that because we have done this, we should get change back.  We do run in to issues with this because taxes that get added on after the fact sometimes bring us above what we originally thought it would be.  But this creates a great communication opportunity.

Selling Items in Exchange for Money:  I have explored and tried different options here.  One of the ideas that I have tried on a very small scale came from reading a message board post about someone who ran a doggie biscuit business out of his classroom.  I started doing something ike this on a small scale last year.  This year I have come up with some ways to switch adapt a lot of the process and we will keep doing it.  I have even found a graduated student who will be doing our delivery (with her adult support worker) for us (she will get to keep all tips that she gets from delivering).  Another thing we have tried is fundraisers or selling things in the school (healthy snack cart, bake sales...etc.).  We work on communication skills, following directions, taking money, making change...etc. when doing these activities.  After the sale we sort, roll, count and deposit money.  We have at times used a visual to show how much money we have made and how far we are from purchasing some item we want to purchase.  My hope is that this exposes students to the concept that we make the money that we spend.

Completing Tasks In Exchange for Money:  I will start by saying that I have not done this one in my classroom but rather with my son who has Down syndrome.  I started doing it when he was about 7 years old as the concept of "allowance" just seemed to abstract for him.  What I did was make boardmaker cards with different jobs and beside the job I put a picture of how many quarters he could earn to do each job.  I then made another set of cards of small things he likes to purchase (bag of chips, hot dog lunch at school, renting a movie, buying a movie, dollar store toy...etc.).  When he would do a job, he would get the money immediately and then decide which purchase card he wanted to tape his quarters to.  Once a purchase card is full we would take a trip to the store and buy that item.  I have now moved to just paying him for jobs and he puts the money in his wallet and then when we go to the store and he wants something we check if he has enough (he is now almost 11).  I have never worked this in my classroom but have talked to parents about doing something similar at home.

Organizing Your Wallet:  Putting things in the right place including coins, bills, receipts, ATM cards, shopping lists...etc.  If you could see my purse/wallet you would wonder what I'm doing teaching this but it really is a task that needs to be learned. 

Matching Coins and/or Bills to Money Cards:  We have done some work with simple matching of real coins and bills to cards that have a picture of an item and how much it costs and then outline of the coins and/or bills needed to pay for it.  Students simply match the amounts.  This could be expanded to the student putting the item in an envelop and going to purchase that exact item but one would have to ensure that they get the exact price of each item.  This is one of the places I started when first working on money concepts and also the area that got me really digging in to what money related skills would be more functional for the students in my class as this just didn't seem to have a lot of forward movement in regards to how it would be functional in the long run.  We still do it as I still like to explore how far our students can take their money counting skills. 

Money Templates with Powers of 10:  I have worked with students to show money values up to $9.99 using only pennies, dimes and loonies (dollar bills in the States).  The student learned money values from 1 cent through 9 cents and then money values using times from 10 cents to 90 cents and finally dollar amounts from 1 dollar to 9 dollars.  Then we took a card that was divided in to three columns and put money values in the columns.  For example 23 cents would put the 3 in the last column (the penny column) and the 2 in the column next to it (the dime column).  Then student would count out the correct number of coins and come up with 23 cents.  Again, the functionality of this seems a bit tedious but could also be used in a similar way as above where the student puts the money in an envelope after this and goes to purchase the item he/she wants.  Would have to know exact amount again in this scenerio.  There is also the possibility long term that the student might not need template but it is a long shot.

ATM Use: Going through the sequence of using an ATM card either to get money or to make a purchase with a student. 

Menu Planning:  Grocery shopping is one of the things that everyone does consistently.  To go grocery shopping, we have to make menu plans.  This can be menu planning for one meal that we are making as a class or creating a menu for meals that we would have at home for  set amount of time.  From the menu (with pictures) we can pull out the items that we would need to purchase and go from there.  Can expand this in to the area of looking at healthy options for eating as well as ensuring a balanced diet.

Locating Items in Stores:  Using signs and markers to find specific items in the store.  Realizing that items are grouped in stores (by type of food in grocery store, type of item in department store...etc.).  Having students locate items.  Ideas discussed in an earlier post related to scavenger hunts would be a great way to address these types of objectives.

Videotape Modeling for Purchasing:  We have touched briefly in to videotape modeling with one of our students.  I would like to continue to explore this way of learning.  One of the things that we could look at is doing some videotape modeling of purchasing to prep a student. 

Social Stories, Social Rehearsals and/or Picture Timelines would also be an option for rehearsals.

Token Economy in the Classroom:  I have not done this but another way to work on handling money would be to set up a token economy in the classroom where students get paid for certain things and then can use their money in exchange for privleges and/or buying items.

Other Skills that Can Be Worked On:  There are a lot of other skills that can be focused on while doing money types of tasks including object recognition (looking for an item in a store and asking what something is or a yes/no question of is this ---?), sequencing skills (what do we do first, what' next...etc.), reaching, grasping and releasing to pick up items, eye-hand coodination...etc.

Calculator Skills:  We have had some of our students work on Calculator skills with money amounts.  These are mostly addition types of skills.
I am sure it is not an exhaustive list but its a start and over time I've begun to feel that I am addressing fuctional and meaningful money skills for our students.

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