Teaching DISD Students About Money -- How to Keep It, and How to Make It

Over the weekend, New York Times personal finance writer Tara Siegel Bernard visited with Sunset High School's Mathew Frost, an 11th and 12th grade American history and economics teacher giving his students a real-world look at how to balance the books. In other words, he's teaching to the actual test of l-i-v-i-n.

Mr. Frost says it's just too important to ignore. So he tries to bring the lesson to life for his students by pairing them up as married couples and giving them a couple of children. The students must then create a budget based on the average income range for their neighborhood, or about $21,000 to $40,000 a year. As in the board game "Life," the students are dealt real-world circumstances. Mr. Frost has them randomly pick "chance cards" from a bag, which might tell them they need new brakes for their car, broke an arm, suffered a death in the family, or found $20.

"I try to make it a realistic as possible," he said. "We talk about building budgets, expenses, investing money," he added, as well as "how to use credit wisely, insurance and careers."

And, speaking of The Times, public school and keeping track of the dough-re-mi, on his Freakonomics blog this morning Steven Levitt directs our attention to this week's Time cover story, which wonders, "Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School?" The story is based on Harvard economist Roland Fryer Jr.'s controversial experiments in four cities, Dallas among them, in which the University of Texas at Arlington graduate doled out a total of $6.3 million in mostly privately donated money to see how kids would do when paid to do their regularly scheduled schoolwork. In Dallas, some second-graders got $2 per book they read, so long as they passed a computer quiz after they claimed to finish the book. Fryer showed Time the results:
In Dallas, the experiment produced the most dramatic gains of all. Paying second-graders to read books significantly boosted their reading-comprehension scores on standardized tests at the end of the year -- and those kids seemed to continue to do better the next year, even after the rewards stopped.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky