The aim of the project was to introduce growth mindset approaches, specifically in relation to the teaching of money. Children tended to think that working with money was more difficult than working with abstract numbers. We wanted to show them that the skills they use in numeracy lessons were transferable when working with money, and vice-versa. Parents were also keen for the children to learn more about money, so we introduced a class economy to teach concepts relating to budgeting and give practical opportunities to use numeracy skills. Practical homework tasks relating to using money in real life were also planned. By the end of the project, we hoped that the children would have experienced practical problem-solving activities relating to money, acquired a range of numeracy skills and understood that these could be applied to money.
Unfortunately, the project was suddenly cut short by school closures during the pandemic. The project was beginning to have some impact, but as we were unable to continue into the final term, the overall aim was not achieved. The children enjoyed the class economy system, where they were paid for their classroom jobs and had various options for how to spend their money. Some children grasped early on that if they wanted something expensive, they would have to wait and save for a few weeks. Other children wanted to spend their money as soon as they earned it and bought cheaper items every week. The children were just starting to become aware that this was precluding them from buying more expensive items. This learning took time, personal experience, and observation of other children's experiences to acquire.
For homework, the children were tasked with visiting a shop, buying something with cash and receiving the change. For some children this was a good way to understand the concept of change. One child brought in a photo of him receiving change in a shop, and this was a useful reminder on the maths wall if children were confused about change. If we were to re-run the project, we would carry out this activity in class also to make sure all children get the chance to take part.
In relation to transferring numeracy skills to money and vice versa, this was the part of the project where we had the most discussion with the children about growth mindset. Some children remained convinced that calculations involving money were more difficult than normal addition/subtraction calculations, and we would have liked one more term to work on this. However, other children became able to explain which skills they were using and how they were transferring them, for example a number of children identified that counting up 10p coins and then adding on smaller amounts is exactly the same as counting using tens and ones materials.
The plan was to use the full school year for the project, as part of the aim was for children to see money as just another way of using numbers. We taught numeracy in the context of money every week, and taught them interchangeably, to allow the children to see that the same skills were needed regardless of whether they were working with money or "just numbers". It was also important to have the class economy in place for a long time to give the children time to try various approaches to spending and saving and to consider the choices they and their classmates made. Due to the school closure, we had to stop the project early and before we were able to achieve all its aims. If repeated, we would want the project to last a full year for all the reasons given.
A few small changes were made to the project plan as the year went along. The main theme was to teach money and numeracy interchangeably, so some of the numeracy lessons planned were adapted to incorporate money. When the concept of the class economy was first introduced, some of the children were confused by the idea of writing down how much money they had earned and adding to it the following week. We had to spend more time than originally planned to explain how banks work and how to add on to a previous balance. If we had been able to continue into the final term, we would also have made some changes to ensure that by the end of term all the children had experienced the need to choose between spending or saving.
Teaching of both money and numeracy has changed due to the project. We have taken a more practical stance, introduced a wider range of strategies from an earlier stage and spent more time talking with the children specifically about which strategies they might use and why. The children are now better at identifying strategies for completing calculations. Some children were able to transfer between money calculations and other calculations with no changes to their approach and no less confidence. Others still see money work as being harder but are able to identify some strategies to use. The children have had access to play money throughout the year and some have chosen to use it to help them just as they might choose Numicon or Diennes materials. This has been an aspect of the project we hadn't foreseen, but we are very pleased about.
The class economy was useful and will certainly be used with future classes as a way of teaching budgeting. The children had a variety of approaches to spending or saving and they were able to learn by watching the choices their classmates made and comparing these to their own choices. However, this aspect of the project was particularly affected by the school closure. We had just reached the point where a few children who had saved continually from the start, would have been able to afford the most expensive items. It would have been very useful for all the children to have witnessed this and had some class discussion about the various choices that had been made, the validity of all those choices, and the need to think long-term about which choices to make.
The practical homework and the group problem-solving tasks helped the children to see the real-life purpose of their learning. This is an aspect of the project that would have benefited from further development if school had been open. We could have introduced more group tasks and possibly more practical homework challenges, to give some of the children more experience of using money rather than just making calculations with it. We would also have liked to find a way to reproduce the homework challenges in class for those children who were unable to complete the homework.
We were unable to complete the measurements for the end of the project due to school closures. However, from discussions with the children we know that they have a better awareness of the need to make choices about what to do with money, and that saving is necessary to build up larger amounts of money. The class as a whole are also able to discuss money calculations in the same way as they discuss other calculations, for example during Number Talks. They can now suggest a variety of strategies for money calculations and are able to use play coins in the same way as they use other concrete materials for solving problems and making calculations.
The school would like to further implement this approach to teaching money. We would like to try it for a full school year. We intended to discuss this with colleagues when school had returned, to establish if it could be useful to others as a means of implementing growth mindset.