Financial Literacy Word Wall

There's something so empowering about teaching teens how to work with percentages, how to budget and what all that fancy-sounding financial language means. Teaching teens financial literacy was even empowering to me. It made me feel I was giving my students the tools they needed to avoid being taken advantage of financially, which can happen to any of us. In this post I want to show the parts of a new word wall that I made to support a financial literacy curriculum and talk a bit about the misconceptions and questions that can arise while teaching teens personal finance class in a consumer math class. The financial literacy word wall in this post puts the vocabulary and concepts in context as it presents the math visually.

I love teaching teens how to build their financial literacy. There's something so empowering about knowing how to work with percentages, how to budget and what all that fancy-sounding financial language means. 

Teaching teens about personal finance was even empowering to me. It made me feel I was giving my students the tools they needed to avoid being taken advantage of financially, which can happen to any of us.

In this post I want to show the parts of a new financial literacy word wall I made to support your curriculum, and talk a bit about the misconceptions and questions that can arise in class. 

Financial Literacy Word Wall
digital version

So much of consumer math is working with percents. Sales tax, gratuity, and finding sale prices are so important to students so I made sure to have these references in the word wall. Teens want to know that shirt on sale will actually ring up 40% off and the tip to leave on their first date. 

One of my proudest teacher moments came from a story my student Janiece told me about her job. 

A customer was getting upset at Janiece's register because she thought the final sale price was wrong for the item she bought. Janiece proudly recounted the story of how she was not only able to defuse the situation but also teach the customer the right way to find a sale price.

Super proud teacher moment. 

Financial Literacy Word Wall - what is a credit score? How can I improve my credit score or even what my credit score is?

At the beginning of the school year when I gave my students a survey, I learned that many of my students wanted to know about credit scores. Maybe it's the public school focus on standardized testing or the constant credit score commercials on TV. 

Kids are wondering about their credit score, what a credit score is and how they can have a good score.

Another student of mine really wanted a job. We heard about it every day in class. Finally when we - the whole class at this point - pressed him on why he didn't have a job, he replied, "I'm afraid I'll mess up the register."

He was a junior and didn't have a job because he was worried about his ability to make change. 
Students have a lot of anxiety around personal finance and money. We chatted about how getting fired isn't the end of the world and that getting that first job would be the hardest. He could take what he learned at this first job and apply it to the next one. He could learn the register at this first job.

So I made sure to add images into this word wall about paychecks and budgets, pay stubs, paycheck schedules and monthly expenses.

Financial Literacy Word Wall - closeup of the monthly budget wheel. 30% of our net income should go to housing. This should include all bills.

Long story short, my student faced his fears and got a job. He then quit that job, got another, quit that one and got another. In the span of a couple months he overcame his fear of getting a job, had a few jobs and got himself some fancy new clothes.

And speaking of clothes, students should only be spending 5% of their net monthly income on clothes. And 10% should be going to savings... 

OK, so we all know this isn't happening with teenagers! But being aware of these numbers is important, even if most of their money is currently going towards new clothes and food. It's important for them to see what the goal is.

Financial Literacy Word Wall - check front and back, credits and debits in a checkbook register and debit vs. credit card

"What's the difference between a debit card and a credit card?" was another question I got a lot. They look the same and we use them the same at the register. 

Another question that arose was the difference between "debit" and "debit card", "credit" and "credit card". Debit and credit are used in different contexts within finances. We debit and credit a checking account. A credit is an increase of money in this case. With a credit card, we are taking credit that we need to pay back. This can get confusing. 

Students also may see a credit card as income or free money. They don't always know it's money that needs to be paid back.

Exponential growth and compound interest is maybe the most important topic in financial literacy for students to learn, and these topics are covered in the word wall. A student who had been in one of my first ever classrooms got locked into a 28% interest rate on a used car as an adult. 28%! Things like this can happen so easily to young people if they do not know what these numbers mean. This was a story I told my Consumer Math students every year as a cautionary tale. 

So many of the questions my students would ask would feel like common knowledge questions, except that they weren't. If we never teach kids about money, they may end up learning about it the hard way. It's funny how we all deal with money every day but we all also have so many questions. 

Financial Literacy Word Wall - financing a $30000 car, including a look at its amortization schedule

When we made vision boards in Consumer Math, a lot of my students included photos of fancy cars. So we talked a lot about this.

Unlike a house, owning a car is a liability. A car's value drops significantly each year, which is great for assessing excise tax but not so great if we're going into a car loan with the idea the car is an asset. Instead of a fancy car, what else could we spend that money on?  

Financial Literacy Word Wall - a look at the costs associated with owning a car

Another topic my students wanted to know more about was the stock market. 

"How do I buy stocks?" "How do I make money in the stock market?" In this part of the word wall I added cards for profit and loss so that students are aware of the up and downsides of investing this way. 

Financial Literacy Word Wall - profit and loss in the stock market - buying and selling stocks and profit margin.

Students often do not get a tax return when they are owed one. I helped a few students get their tax returns and could go on and on about how I feel about this. 

Filing a tax return is intimidating, especially the first time. But kids who work should be getting their money back. 

Financial Literacy Word Wall - filing federal income taxes - W-2, 1040, Tax table

And of course, mortgages -- where a 0.5% difference in interest rate makes a HUGE difference over the course of paying a 30 year loan. I love running numbers on an amortization calculator to estimate the difference in overall cost by paying more each month, increasing a down payment or decreasing interest percentage. 

Financial Literacy Word Wall - paying a mortgage - a small increase or decrease in interest rate can mean a big difference in the overall cost of a house.

All of the word wall references in this post can be found in this Financial Literacy Word Wall.

Scaffolded Math and Science - Financial Literacy Word Wall
Financial Literacy Word Wall

The activities in this Consumer Math activities bundle were ones we'd use in class. One of these days I will compile everything we used into a curriculum. Can I get a few more days in the week? Hours in the day maybe?


  1. How can I get this for my classroom?

    1. Thank you for asking. Towards the end of this post is an image that reads "Financial Literacy Word Wall". Clicking on that image will bring you to TpT where it can be downloaded.