Market of Ideas Blog

Blog by Bob Glowacki, Executive Director

Toward the end of the school year at St. Augustine’s on the southside of Milwaukee, I had the pleasure of seeing our economy in action. It was playing out before me as students took their turns going to the class store with their “money.”  The money they earned came from classroom jobs and meeting certain goals. Smiling third graders with fake money buying small items like a stuffed animal or a pen that looks a giraffe. That is so cute, right?  Insert emoji here.

If that is all you see, you need to look more deeply at the mini-economy in front of you. The mini-economy is a year-long interactive lessons about basic aspects of our economy. Look across the room and see a sign displaying the cost of renting desks and school devices.  Lesson learned is we have to spend some of our money on our needs like shelter and technology, before buying items we want or desire. Another sign lists classroom jobs with a pay scale and expectations. Lesson learned is when you work you are paid for your services and talents. I was told about Nathan who approached his teacher for a raise.  He explained that he did his job well, on-time and without being reminded.  Nathan got the raise!  Lesson learned is that doing your job well, pays rewards.

In the future, we see a special event called Market Day taking place. Market Day allows students to barter, sell and exchange goods.  The students set prices, market their items and make a sale. Market Day sounds a lot like a small or large business on Main Street, USA making decisions on inventory, price and responding to customers.  

The lessons learned as part of the mini-economy are vital as we try to end economic and financial illiteracy. A recent study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation noted that while financial literacy skills have declined for all Americans since the Great Recession, the drop is especially sharp for Americans ages 18 to 34. The FINRA findings support an earlier 2015-2016 study, which said less than one-third (28%) of college students correctly answered three multiple choice questions about interest, inflation and risk diversification. (MarketWatch, July 3, 2019)

EconomicsWisconsin is able to support the adoption of the mini-economy in any school or school district, looking to provide requisite financial training to elementary school students. The mini-economy may be small in size, but the lessons learned are super-sized!