6 tips to integrate financial education into the maths curriculum

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Sharon Davies, CEO of the national financial and enterprise education charity Young Enterprise, has spent years championing the power and positive impact of teaching young people financial skills.

Following her recent appearance on Pearson’s The Right Angle podcast, she shares her thoughts on why integrating consistent financial education in UK schools is a goal worth striving for. Although financial education crosses over many areas of the curriculum, such as PSHE, business studies or science, many would argue that maths is its natural home. Here, Sharon outlines her top tips on embedding the subject in maths.

The right support and opportunities for young people can change lives – and that’s especially true when it comes to improving financial education. Every day we make financial decisions, whether those be relatively small or hugely significant for our personal circumstances. When young people understand finance, they can make sure their own financial decisions are informed, establish positive habits like regular saving and minimise their risks of being victim to scams or fraud.

There is a direct link between a young person's numeracy and their financial capability, yet numeracy on its own does not make an individual financially capable - there are many other aspects that can be taught as part of Citizenship and PSHE. This cross-curricular approach to financial education can have the greatest impact on the financial capability of young people. At Young Enterprise, we’re seeing many teachers make positive changes by embedding financial lessons into the core maths curriculum, as well as in other areas.

Young Enterprise has worked with thousands of committed, wonderful teachers over the years. If you are a maths educator or school leader who would like to learn more from their experience, here are my top tips for making financial education work in your school. 

1. Be guided by students and think about what would work in your setting

Teachers know their students better than anybody, so remaining guided by learners when integrating financial education into maths will be a top priority.

Start small, trust your instincts and help your classes make progress through repetition and skill stacking. This will build your students’ ‘muscles’ over time and help fuel their future learning.

What you’ll hopefully see quite quickly is that, once learners engage with the real-world impact of financial education, the new energy in your classroom will energise you too.

It’s great if you can have fun with this, although we also recognise that it can be hard to do when teacher scheduling is tight and workloads are heavy. Securing support from the whole school and senior leadership teams may help you find the protected time and space you need to have a go.

2. Begin the journey early

There is research (conducted by MaPS and Cambridge University) to say that children learn their life-long values and attitudes around money from the people around them before age 7. 

Imagine the difference over the years between a person who has been taught to be financially responsible whilst at primary level, and a person who missed out on those early lessons. By reviewing your maths curriculum and identifying points where financial education could naturally fit, perhaps in combination with using Young Enterprise’s financial education planning frameworks, you can help give your pupils a strong start.

3. Find room for real-life opportunities

One risk with maths is that sometimes young people disengage from the subject because it can seem hard, abstract or irrelevant to their lives. When thinking about teaching finances, look for real-world contexts – for any applied-learning approaches – to help bring the subject to life. Teaching through scenarios that make sense to young people, in an age-appropriate way, such as setting up a shop in school or participating in programmes such as our 10X initiative, whereby young people create their own business with just £10, is what makes the subject relatable. This is what will make it stick for young people throughout their school life and beyond.

4. Keep it current

Building on that last point is this next tip from one of my Young Enterprise colleagues, a former maths teacher: try to use current affairs in your lessons regularly.

By expanding the applications of financial-based maths out from your students and into the wider world, you will help young people join the dots and see both maths and finance as meaningful subjects for everyone. An example of this would be the ability to understand the impact of the price cap reduction on energy tariffs, expected in April 2024, and being able to judge which tariff would be the most suitable.

5. Take a cross-curricular approach

Ideally, the connection between students and financial education is one that can be expanded across the whole school – not only in maths and citizenship.

Once you start teaching financial topics, you’re sure to spark some fascinating and rich conversations around emotions, decision-making, needs and wants. For instance, “Yes, you could afford to borrow that money at that rate… but do you really want to?”

Where possible, see how you can link up with teachers in other subject areas to make the most of this impact on hearts and minds, and provide the space these kinds of topics need across the school community.

6. Find support from the wider community

There is plenty of support out there to help maths teachers try out these approaches – and the Young Enterprise Teachers Hub is a great place to start. There you can access a range of free high-quality resources from a range of different providers, all of which have been through Young Enterprise’s Financial Education Quality Mark, supported by the Money and Pensions Service.

We also offer a free advisory service for teachers to call or email with any questions they have. Our job is to be there to support you – and help give schools what you need to make a difference for all young children across the UK, so that our young people go out into the world feeling confident and able to make informed financial decisions. 

Access Sharon’s episode of the podcast, and many more, by subscribing to Pearson’s The Right Angle podcast.

Pearson’s Power of Maths campaign works to ensure that everyone can engage with maths and what it can do. Whether it's tackling issues facing maths education or promoting maths positivity, we're focused on working alongside leading thinkers and organisations to help build a number-confident nation. 

Read our Guide to Tackling Maths Anxiety (PDF | 1.68 MB) full of practical tips, guidance and reflections for every age and stage and our quick read (PDF | 176.96 KB) highlighting some key tools to support maths-anxious learners. 

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Sharon Davies, CEO of Young Enterprise

Sharon Davies, CEO, 
Young Enterprise

About Young Enterprise

Young Enterprise is a national financial and enterprise education charity. They are passionate about developing the financial capabilities and enterprising mindset of the next generation. They believe that increased access to meaningful opportunities, combined with ongoing support, can change young people’s futures.

As part of this, Young Enterprise strives to empower young people to build the vital skills to earn and look after their money and make a positive contribution to their community. They provide practical employability, enterprise, and financial education programmes, working in partnership with teachers, parents, businesses, and volunteers.

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