Encouraging Student Success with Financial Literacy Topics

5 min read

| By Gale Staff |

Middle school is a time when students are beginning to think more about their futures, and they can benefit from learning about real-world skills and concepts that they can use now and in the future. One topic students may benefit from learning about is personal finance. Financial literacy, or understanding and implementing basic financial concepts, is an important topic area that can help middle school students achieve real-life success.

Numerous studies and organizations have concluded that helping young people learn about financial literacy topics will most likely benefit them in the future. For example, in 2020, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report about financial literacy among young people living in the United States and other countries that are part of the OECD. The study found that students who were more knowledgeable about finance and economics tended to have better financial literacy. The report also indicated that many young people involved in the study learned about topics related to financial literacy in school.1 

In the United States, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission—which is part of the federal government—developed the U.S. National Strategy for Financial Literacy to help guide and encourage financial literacy initiatives. In the 2020 strategy document, the Commission noted the importance of developing financial literacy among young people, stating, “Building the financial decision-making knowledge and skills of young people helps them to make informed financial choices throughout their lives.”2 Educators who want to help their students better understand financial literacy will find numerous age-appropriate, engaging resources in the Gale In Context: Middle School database.

Introducing Financial Literacy

Teachers can introduce students to the topic of financial literacy in the new Financial Literacy portal, which gives an overview of what financial literacy is and why it’s important. After reading the portal’s overview, students will better understand why financial literacy is important and how learning about it could benefit them in the future.

One way teachers can engage students who seem hesitant about the subject may be to introduce them to other young people who care about, and even teach about, financial literacy. In the audio clip Brother-Sister Team Teach Other Kids About Stocks, Finance,” students can listen to a first-person account of two siblings who learn about and teach about personal finance topics. The short audio clip will introduce middle school students to two kids of similar ages who not only teach about personal finance but have also created a money-making business around their teaching. Teachers can ask students to reflect on the siblings’ work and whether they would be interested in starting their own business now or in the future. 

Teachers can also use the financial literacy topic to encourage students to learn about basic financial literacy concepts. For example, the reference article “Economics” gives a brief overview of the study of economics. The “Wants vs. Needs” article also presents a basic concept in personal finance; it states that people will spend money on things they want and on things they need. 

Helping Students Understand Future Options 

After students have developed a general understanding of financial literacy, teachers can encourage them to take a deeper dive into the database’s financial literacy content to help them learn about specific personal finance topics. Teachers can also encourage students to study topics that will help them understand more about the choices they will need to make in the coming years. 

For example, the article “College or Not?” will provide students with information that may help them analyze their feelings and thoughts about whether or not to attend college after high school. The article provides a balanced review of some of the benefits and drawbacks of attending college and of not attending. It explains that people who earn college degrees are more likely to earn higher incomes. However, it also explains that many employment opportunities exist now, and will exist in the future, for workers in skilled-labor jobs. 

Students can use the database’s resources to better understand the tools they can use to determine which career interests them. The article “Assessing Career Match” will help students understand that one tool they can use while trying to choose a possible future career is a career assessment. The article explains how people use career assessments and what information the assessments generally use to identify possible career matches. Students will also learn how to use job research and job shadowing to help them identify possible future careers. 

Helping Students Become Informed Consumers 

Middle schoolers most likely already make consumer decisions, and they will likely have to make more of those decisions as they get older. Many of the financial literacy resources available in Gale In Context: Middle School can help prepare students to make these decisions by helping them become better-informed consumers.

Teachers can encourage students to access the new article “Advertising and Marketing,” which will provide students with an overview of the role of advertising and marketing in the economy. Students may better understand how advertising and marketing are meant to influence consumer behavior, and teachers can encourage students’ critical thinking by asking them to think about their own experiences with advertising and marketing.

Students can also access articles such as “Product Research” and “Comparison Shopping” to help them understand the steps consumers can take to ensure they make the best possible purchasing decisions. The articles will give real-life examples of how to do research and will explain why this type of research is valuable for consumers. 

Introducing students to the financial literacy resources available in the database can help them develop skills they will use now and in the future.

  1. OECD, PISA 2018 Results (Volume IV): Are Students Smart About Money? PISA, OECD Publishing, 2020
  2. U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission, U.S. National Strategy for Financial Literacy 2020, U.S. Department of the Treasury, 2020.

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