Fun activities for teaching teens financial literacy

Fun activities for teaching teens financial literacy

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

In this post I want to share some of the financial literacy activities I made for my consumer math students.

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.

Always looking for any excuse to tell a story, I relayed a few about friends who made mistakes at their 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! For a lot of us, getting that first job is really hard. As a class, we helped push him past that first hurdle.

A few weeks later, 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. It was great to see!

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 personal finance class.
This financial literacy word wall supports students in a consumer math course. It includes printable color, printable black and white and no-prep digital in Google Slides. All 3 versions are included in the same file.

Consumer math curriculum

When I taught consumer math, there was a very basic book but nothing else. I spent a lot of time searching online for material that would resonate with my seniors. In 2022, I built a consumer math curriculum that includes warm-ups, a student book, teacher book, student notebook sheets, PowerPoints, quizzes and more. It's the curriculum I wish I had had when teaching the course. You can find the consumer math curriculum here.

I like to 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? The digital sort above is an upgrade to the paper one we'd do in class.
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

So much of learning this material is based on an understanding of percents. Here is a percentage of a number reference for student notebooks to remind students how we take a percentage of a number.
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. 

Paycheck Tasks w/ GOOGLE Form
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. 

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

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 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. 

And this percent discounts math pennant covers sale prices. 

One of my high schoolers really wanted a job but was worried about "messing up the register." If you have students who are worried about making change, this brand new set of making change task cards asks students to calculate the amount of change owed after a purchase, then the number of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies needed to make the change.

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

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 taxes." 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 an income tax 1040 task cards activity.

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

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

budgets digital math escape room

I've been working on making digital escape rooms for students who have access to technology. This is a new budgets digital math escape room. It's an answer-validated Google Form that covers tax, tip and discounts. 

Percents Digital Math Escape Room

Having a solid understanding of percents is so important for people of all ages so that we fully understand taxes, tips and interest rates. This percents digital math escape room reviews percents.

And other digital activities, including this Shop the Grocery Store Google Forms activity for finding percent discounts. 

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.

I update this free 1040 cheat sheet every year to help teens file their tax returns. Even dependents can file a tax return and receive a refund. If you want to know when it's updated, you can join the consumer math Facebook group.

Unit price digital math escape room

Toilet paper math is the hardest math. This brand new unit price digital math escape room is a fun review of unit prices.

free unit price task cards

There is a free set of unit price task cards in my blog's free math resource library.

Activities in this post can be found inside this Consumer Math Activities Bundle.

You may also like:


  1. I love this! I am actually going to use some of it with my seniors! Each year we complete a budgeting activity and this added in will be perfect! Thank you!

    1. I loved teaching consumer math to my seniors! It was so rewarding teaching them the skills they wanted to learn about managing their finances.

  2. Good morning. Was wondering if I purchase the curriculum does it include all the games and extra activities or are they all having to be purchased separately? I am trying to find an updated good consumer math curriculum for our school for missionary kids.

    1. I wish I could always see names here. It must be a setting I don't have right. The Consumer Math Activities Bundle and the Scaffolded Consumer Math Curriculum are separate. The curriculum can stand on its own, though the activities bundle can be used as a supplement to bring in more activities.