Playing the Stock Market to Learn Math


Math in Elizabeth Keleshian’s Middle School classes is all about real world application. She double-majored in philosophy and math/economics at university and focused her graduate thesis in education on financial literacy. “The biggest lesson that my professor wanted us to remember until we die was the beauty of compound interest and how money can grow so fast. If you just save it, compound interest does the work for you,” Keleshian says.

“Financial literacy is very undervalued in secondary education. And, that’s where I felt inspired. I feel like I need to integrate financial literacy in my classes, because students could really get engaged in this and it’s something that they can use forever,” she says, noting that she wasn’t taught anything like this herself when she was in grade school.

So, what does this look like in her classes at Alta Vista? Here’s a fun example: Keleshian isn’t trying to turn students into little stock brokers, but she uses Investopedia’s stock simulator as a tool to teach kids about the real world uses of the math they are learning anyway – things like decimals, percent, interest, margins, total gains and losses, trend lines and so on.

Everyone begins with the tidy sum of $100,000 in their Investopedia portfolio. This teaching tool is tied to the real stock market, the S&P 500, and students get to research stocks and invest their money. They also learn how current events can affect the markets. “The S&P 500, a few days ago, it was really low,” she says. “So, they knew something in the world happened. What happened? Amazon’s cloud crashed, and caused a loss for some companies. It caused a little drop in the S&P 500.”

Students learn to budget, because they have a set amount of money to play with. “Some kids get a little nervous about it, and they ask me what stocks they should buy. I tell them to buy stocks that you really think will do well in the future; invest in something that you believe in, that you know about.” Keleshian says some students got really wild investing in SNAP, (Snapchat) recently, and she used the moment to remind them about diversification.

How are the students doing? One kid has made $7,000. Another has lost $10,000. “They love to compete, but in a good way,” says Keleshian, smiling.

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