January 23, 2021

Tennessee Teachers Helping Their Students Learn Financial Literacy

Teachers in Tennessee, which in 2009 had the highest rate of Chapter 13 bankruptcy per capita in the United States, believe it’s never to early to teach children how to handle money and make smart choices.

The $mart Tennessee Financial Literacy program, which is taught to first-, fourth-, and seventh-graders as well as high school students, aims to teach children and young adults that money does not grow on trees. The program is in its fourth year in Tennessee, and in 2008-2009 it reached over 15,000 students.

Cordova Elementary school teacher Jennifer Conti gave her fourth-grade class a lesson on the difference between goods and services. A fast-food chain was used as an example. While the children understood that their parents paid for edible goods, such as burgers and fries, at the chain, they also heard their parents complain about bad service. Another example was if a good such as a computer was purchased, Conti explained to her class that it’s a service if someone comes to your house to set the computer up or fix it.

Students also learn about the link between education and careers. “I learned the more education, the more cash,” said fourth-grader Lauren. “If you have a lot of talents and skills, you get much more money for that,” said classmate Zeric.

According to Marilyn Taylor, who oversees social studies in Memphis City Schools, “Saving is a big part of this; it may just be a nickel in your hand, but saving a nickel each week will add up. This is about more than money, if students learn to make wise choices, that goes across their whole life. It’s about decision-making.”

In the Western District of Tennessee, which includes Memphis and Jackson, 20,029 individuals or businesses filed for bankruptcy last year. The $mart Tennessee Financial Literacy is hoping to reduce the number of filings in future generations by teaching children early on about money and economics in terms to which they can relate.