Fun activities for teaching teens financial literacy

Looking for activities to teach teens financial literacy? In this post I share some of the activities I use to teach my consumer math class, including a few few resources to get started teaching financial literacy today.

A couple years ago, one of my juniors would talk everyday about wanting an after school job. When I pressed for the reason he didn't yet have a job, he said, "I'm afraid I'll mess up the register."

It got me thinking about all of my students and how many kids had this same reason for not having a job.

Always looking for any excuse to tell a story, I relayed a few about friends who messed up registers and lived to tell about it. We then had a quick discussion about getting fired, how it's not a huge deal, that everyone gets fired at some point, and a couple weeks later he got his first job. 

Then he quit that job and got a new job. Then he did it again. Within a few months, this student went from being afraid of getting a job to choosing the job he wanted.

Teaching teens financial literacy

One of my favorite topics to teach students is financial literacy. There are so many scary things about money these days - from student loans to what percentages even mean - and students have a lot of questions about it all. Some of the questions my senior consumer math students would ask made me wonder how any kid could leave high school without taking a financial literacy class.

Fun activities for teaching teens financial literacy - financial literacy word wall

In this post I want to share some of the activities from my consumer math class and other activities I have made to cover financial literacy topics. I also recently completed a financial literacy word wall to support a consumer math curriculum.

We start the year with a discussion about wants vs. needs. Inevitably we always get to books and clothes, which makes for a fun discussion. Are books and clothes wants or needs? 

Knowin ghow to balance a checkbook is an important skill. Here is a set of check book task cards to practice.

Next we learn how to balance a checkbook. We discuss that a lot of people just don't bother anymore, but that it is still important to keep track of the money going in and out. We learn how to make an Google Sheets checkbook that automatically calculates balances and complete this set of checkbook task cards.

To make things fun, I make customized checks for my students. There is a free website here

How much money should I spend on food? On rent? On entertainment? This set of budget task cards covers those questions.

We cover budgets and talk about what percentage of our income should be dedicated to housing, food, entertainment, etc. By the time we get to these budget task cards, a lot of my students are really considering the costs of everything. 

Converting between gross, net, monthly, weekly, annual pay paycheck task cards

We do a lot of practice converting between different income measurements - net, gross, annual, monthly, weekly, etc. We complete this unit with a set of paycheck task cards.

I give my students this formula:

(hourly pay)*(2000) = gross annual income

We learn how to convert more accurately, but this way they can quickly know what annual income they are looking at when getting job offers.

A former student I have kept in touch with posted on Facebook looking for advice. She was expecting a baby soon and wanted to know if she should look for a new, safer car or continue to pay her current car loan at 24% interest.


She hadn't known the ramifications of such a high interest rate.  

One of my favorite units to teach in consumer math is percentages. They are the tiniest little numbers but they can mean big money for students who don't know what they mean. We do a lot of practice finding percentages, calculating tips, tax, discounts. 

tip task cards

One of the greatest things about being a teen is going out to eat. They talk about food constantly and are always hungry. We discuss the importance of leaving tips when going out to eat and knowing how much to leave before completing this set of tip task cards

Simple and Compound Interest Formula Flip Books

I just recently made this set of interest flippables for simple and compound interest. Under each flap is an explanation of that variable. Or you can choose the blank versions for students to write their own notes.

number talks in high school math

A few years ago I started doing number talks with my students that focused on percentages so that my students would feel empowered to work with percents at stores and at restaurants on the fly.

Prices have changed so much! Students work with past and current prices on these percent change task cards

Prices of everything have changed so much over the years, and not always at the same rate as salaries. This set of percent change task cards is based on past and current costs of items.  

students find percent discounts on these math pennants

And this percents math pennant covers sale prices. 

Students review tax, tip, percent change, discounts and rounding in this whole class percents review game

To check for understanding, we complete this Percents Challenge game that covers tax, tips, percent change, discounts and rounding. I added in rounding after realizing my students were still unsure how to round numbers.

Students complete a 1040 in this challenging task cards activity covering federal income tax

My students always complain a lot through our income tax unit. One year I asked at the end of the year what their favorite unit was. Income tax.

Teenagers are so silly.

So many of my students go without getting a tax refund because they don't know how to fill out the paperwork. It's not right. So even though this unit is a real chore for all us, I feel it's necessary. We learn all about income tax fill out a bunch of practice 1040s and then complete this challenging set of income tax task cards.

There is a free 1040 cheat sheet for students here

We complete this review percents scavenger hunt activity at the end of the year

One of our review activities is this percents scavenger hunt (free in my dropbox) that covers tax, tips and discounts.

Students find the discounted prices of objects in our classroom with these sale tags.

Another favorite activity is this set of shop the classroom sale tags. I put them on objects around the room and students find their discounted prices. By this time in the year, it becomes clear how much they have learned and it's a great way to wrap up the year.

Activities in this post can be found in the Consumer Math+Financial Literacy section of my TpT store and in this Consumer Math bundle.

Consumer math bundle
Consumer Math bundle

Consumer math activities on TpT

Number Talks in High School Math

Free percents scavenger hunt

top blog posts Scaffolded Math and Science

Looking for activities to teach teens financial literacy? In this post I share some of the activities I use to teach my consumer math class, including a few few resources to get started teaching financial literacy today.