The economic pilar in the perspective of the child

Children, money, involvement, mathematics and critical thinking

How does mathematical understanding relate to the economic pillar of the sustainability goals? This is a question I have asked myself, my students and my colleagues. An answer that often arises is that it is neccessary to understand basic mathematics to understanding economics.

This is a model we came up with in my class when we discussed this context in a kindergarten perspective:

Three main points emerged from this discussion:

  • You can not describe sustainable development, without mathematics
  • Everything is connected, on different levels
  • Children need to develop their mathematical abilities, as world citizens now and in the future

But this model has more points other than mathematics, knowledge and economics. In the conversation we also had our knowledge as kindergarten teachers, thus the two factors  play and real life experiences were central to our model. In addition, the model shows that we can not separate these factors from each other, in our opinion, they depend on each other.

Financial literacy

To understand what the economic pillar is in the perspective of the child, one can not avoid the concept of  financial iteracy. OECD has written this definition:

Knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks, and the skills, motivation and confidenceto apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve thefinancial well-being of individualsand society, and to enable participation in economic life (OECD, 2012, p. 33). 

If you want to read more about this, I recommend these documents by OECD , which cover key competencies.

According to Stor Norske leksikon, financial knowledge deals with a person’s understanding of key financial concepts, ability and self-esteem to apply this knowledge and make informed and good decisions about their own finances. The AksjeNorge Foundation (operated by listed companies) was the surveyors in Norway on behalf of the OECD in 2016. This is because they are members of the OECD network called INFE – International Network for Financial Education. The overall objective of the survey was to establish a national strategy for increased financial competence. “With increased responsibility for investment and savings, it is important that all peoples have equal access to knowledge in order to make the best financial decisions. Now and in later stages in life,” says the report (my own translation).

One of their main findings was that women of all ages has less knowledge than men. This did not apply to questions such as “$ 1000 on 5” but questions about inflation, compound interest and diversification. (Men N = 529, Women N = 502)

Can’t women understand this principle of eggs in the basket?

According to the report, 73% of men answered this corectly of reducing risk when buying different stocks/funds, but only 49% of women responded correctly. The rest chose to answer blank or “do not know”. This is thus a significant difference, which is worrying if it turns out that women have less knowledge than men about risk assessment in economics, on a general basis in Norway. This requires further research in other words, but the tendency that came from this survey is quite clear. However, one may also wonder if this knowledge as measured in this report is necessary to achieve good financial knowledge at a personal level as defined by the OECD.

Another main point in the report is that young people has less knowledge than older people. This conclution in the report is not only based on findings from knowledge questions addressed to people under the age of 30, but also on reports from the debt collection sector about the increase in collection requirements among young people, and reports from the Financial Supervisory Authority of Norway that borrowers under the age of 35 have a higher loan-to-value ratio than others. This has also been featured regularly in the media in recent years.

With these important elements in mind, I will go into some (of many possible) points about what the economic pillars may be in a the perspective of the child.

Children and saving money

According to Tali Te’eni- Harari (2016) in the article “Financial literacy among children – The role of involvement in saving money, children must have concrete and physical experiences with money. They must learn savings and what we call delayed gratification. She uses a term called ISM (Involvement in saving money). In short, she believes that children have a better ability to save, and have better habits for saving, if they have concrete experiences with this at a young age. Then find the piggy bank and coins! Do not just save for your kids but with your kids!

Relatert bilde

The ability to do mathematical modeling and critical thinking

Mathematical modeling is a problem solving process that utilizes mathematical concepts and contexts. The models that arise are representations of the problem you want to solve (and the outcomes or results). In other words, it is a simplification of reality that we translate into a mathematical language, where we use what we consider to be the most crucial characteristics of the problem. Modeling often requires organization, structuring, visualization and representation of data. This is thus a mathematical activity that children often deal with: classification and sorting. It is also important to be able to explore, understand symbolism, understand contexts and to create arguments. All of this are activitites that children are able to do!

A resource perspective

In our course we place a lot of emphasis on talking about sustainable development in a child perspective, and then the distribution of and view of resources comes in.

When is something valuable to you?

In what way is it valuable?

How can you become aware of what resources you have in your life?

How can you develop your resources or your resource use in a sustainability perspective?

Post written by Andrea Eikset