tumblr analytics

Real World Classrooms

Teacher'e program helps kids understand finance

Greenville News story 
Read article 

A Real World Math Project, Todays Catholic Teacher
by Susan R. Nunamaker, Ed.S.
From "pay" for good behavior to student-run businesses, the author's classroom economy teaches real-world math throughout the day.

I sat down with Lisa one day and asked her, “What is something you are really good at doing?” It took this struggling third-grade student a long time to think of any talent. Lisa had earned so many failing grades on reading and math assessments over her years in school that she had come to terms with the idea that she was not good at anything.

Lisa finally came back to me with an answer. “Well, I’m really good at braiding hair.” So I told her to try it on my hair. She braided a strand of my hair in less than a minute. The braid stayed in my hair the rest of the day, and I woke up the next morning with the braid perfectly intact! There was no rubber band holding it in, only Lisa’s tight braiding skills. She had discovered her gift.

Lisa saved up classroom money for a class business license and proudly opened “Lisa’s Salon.” She was in such demand, a waiting list hung from her desk. She quickly realized that she needed to improve her math skills to collect payment, make change, and pay her business taxes. She also needed reading and writing skills to create a business plan and marketing materials. Once Lisa made the realization for herself that she needed to improve her reading and math abilities, her classroom performance improved. Lisa found motivation to take responsibility for her own learning and was determined to better herself for the sake of her own future.

When I was in college learning to become a teacher, I pictured myself walking into a classroom full of kids who couldn’t wait to learn and wanted to please me at all times. You can imagine the shock when I entered my first classroom and realized that kids are, well, kids. They come into our schools with lives of their own that definitely have an effect on their performance while they are with us. As I realized that not all students are as motivated as the kids we see in training videos and textbooks, it was now up to me to figure out how to create a successful learning environment for everyone. So I asked myself, “How can I motivate my students to do their best while they are with me?”

The answer was simple. Professionalism encourages both children and adults to work harder. Motivation begins with a classroom payment system. Students are paid retroactively, just as we are in the real world. Each Monday morning I pull my behavior record from the week before and pay students classroom money based on behavior performance. Those with no behavior issues receive $10. Those with behavior hiccups receive $5, and those who went through our judicial process known as Peer Court (a rare occurrence that serves as my class’s version of going to the office) receive nothing. Although credit cards become part of the classroom later in the year, I find it important always to pay students with paper play money. This is a tactile experience that helps to solidify the lessons in financial responsibility we are trying to teach.

After receiving payment, students immediately visit the tax and rent collectors. It is vital that we teach students that needs must be paid for before purchasing anything else in the classroom. Tax and rent are two great ways to teach students that money isn’t simply something used to buy treats in the school store. Taxes are $2 a week, covering classroom supplies, a teacher, textbooks, etc. I increase taxes to $3 halfway through the year. Students become irate, and our classroom government’s town hall meetings become quite a spectacle. Real-world learning at its best! The government must then develop a plan to accommodate their peers, which typically results in increased wages.

Students also decide throughout the year whether to “purchase” their desks or “rent” them. They all begin by renting because they haven’t had time to save up and make such a large purchase. Prices start around $45 and fluctuate throughout the year, so students must decide upon the right time to buy based on their individual circumstances. Rent is $2 a week at the beginning of the year. Net incomes dwindle as necessary expenditures, such as taxes and rent, are paid. The more you can earn through great behavior, the better off you are financially.

As you can see, great behavior pays off, which makes this an incredibly motivational tool for the students and teacher. This system takes a little more time to set up the first few weeks of school; but once the routines are set, the teacher has very few distractions in the classroom, giving him or her more time to teach throughout the year as students become responsible for their learning environment. The real-world classroom takes shape as students take part in experiences that range from classroom insurance to starting charities for peers on the “Debt Board.” Daily classroom routines can easily be transformed into real-world, professional classroom activities through…math! Here are a few unique ideas for you to consider.


Handshakes & Behavior Performance
Mathematical practices: Number & operations, algebraic thinking, counting & cardinality, money, fractions, statistics & probability

Students enter the learning environment shaking hands with the teacher each day. This teaches an important life skill and automatically forms a bond between the student and teacher. Try it once and your students will ask you to do it with them each day. They love to give and receive a handshake. It’s part of being a grownup in their eyes.

Students are paid weekly based on their behavior performance. The importance of math in our lives becomes vividly clear as students become dependent on payday for daily life in the classroom.
Side note on prioritizing needs vs. wants: As you work to build social responsibility in students, be sure to have students pay for needs with their money before you allow them to purchase things that they want. If we pay students and then begin offering things that they want like toys, candy, etc., without requiring them to pay for needs first, we are teaching them that needs are not a priority. Teaching children to prioritize is vital as we model social responsibility. Rent and taxes are a great way to teach our students personal and social responsibility, along with smart financial decision-making skills.


Fines & Bonuses
Mathematical practices: Number & operations, money, risk analysis

In addition to motivation through weekly paydays, you can create fines and bonuses to encourage certain behaviors and keep kids on track throughout the week. Here’s an example:

You can create fines for behaviors that you want to deter. The more you want to deter those behaviors, the higher the fine you can charge. The same goes for bonuses. Create bonuses for behavior you want to encourage. The more you want to encourage those behaviors, the higher the bonus. Our behaviors are shaped by potential fines and bonuses every day.

This strategy encourages great behavior and impacts math instruction at the same time. Students will constantly find themselves adding, subtracting, analyzing risk, and planning for the future through mathematics in your classroom. As I constantly tell my own third-graders, “Understanding how to make math work for you is key to a successful life in this world!”


Lottery Tickets/Raffle Tickets
Mathematical practices: Statistics & probability, money, number & operations

With the help of a double roll of raffle tickets you can motivate students to aspire to greatness. Students earn lottery tickets (which can be called raffle tickets if a lottery isn’t appropriate in your school) for academics and/or outstanding behavior. Here’s how you can use lottery tickets during an academic review.

Ask a question only one time and then call on a student to answer the question. If the student was listening to the question, then he/she will be able to answer. If the student answers correctly, he/she receives a lottery ticket for the drawing that will occur after the review. If the student called on was not listening and asks the teacher to repeat the question, he/she will be told that questions are only called out one time and the teacher will move on to the next student for an answer and a chance to obtain a lottery ticket. This will increase listening ten-fold during your review time.

You are creating a real-world probability project. Presenting authentic vocabulary by using the word “probability” with your students each time you utilize the lottery system will help to build the mathematic concept. Count the number of tickets in the drawing and talk students through the probability of winning based on how many tickets they have acquired. Tickets can also be sold to students for the money that they have earned in your classroom. I usually place a few tickets in the drawing that don’t have a match so that some drawings have no winner. Welcome to the real world!

So now you are probably wondering what kids do with the money that they earn, right?


Life Happens & Classroom Insurance
Mathematical practices: Statistics & probability, money, number & operations

My favorite student quote is, “It’s important to save your money because sometimes life happens.” During “Life Happens,” a good or bad scenario is given (ex: your child needs $5 for a field trip) and a random name will be drawn. The student whose name is drawn at random is responsible for either paying the fee or collecting the winnings.

Students who do not have the savings to pay the fee must go into debt and pay when possible. This is a great way to instill coping skills in your students. It teaches kids that life has ups and downs. They learn to enjoy the ups and accept the downs, as well as how to bounce back from the downs, through math. They also learn at a young age that you have to put a little money away just in case “Life Happens.”
I offer classroom insurance that students can purchase to lower their risk. Property insurance covers accidents involving desks (aka “homes”). Car insurance covers accidents involving students’ imaginary cars. And health insurance covers “Life Happens” events as well as providing a co-pay option for visits to the bathroom and/or nurse for those students who constantly ask to visit those areas of your school. This leads to a dramatic decrease in requests to leave your classroom, creating more time for instruction.


Charitable Giving
Mathematical practices: Number & operations, fractions, decimals, money

Charitable giving provides a great opportunity for teaching fractions, percentages, and money. Students enjoy being able to give a fraction or percentage of their total worth to peers in need, so it is important that they are taught to give in appropriate ways. Students should not give money to whomever they please at any time that they please. This would disrupt all of the work that you are putting into students’ incentives to behave. With that in mind, it is imperative to allow guided opportunities for charity.

Students are given the opportunity to donate to peers on the debt board. Students who receive donations thank the donor(s) with a formal thank-you note. Students tend to be happy to write thank-you notes because they realize just how hard the donor had to work in the classroom for that money. This makes students feel special as both the giver and the receiver. The student who gives money receives intrinsic happiness and the student who receives the money feels loved by his/her classmates. This builds community and peer respect.

Mathematical practices: Number & operations, data analysis, fractions & decimals, money, algebraic thinking, counting & cardinality

Student-run small businesses are an excellent way to practice and enhance social skills. They help students apply math, language arts, social studies, and financial literacy skills. Students will write business plans, make change, calculate sales tax, graph profit margins, create commercials, hire and manage employees, and use their own talents to sell goods and services to their peers. The most amazing effect is the confidence that students build in themselves as they seek out and discover their own personal talents.

Over the years my students have taught me that real-world experiences create the best possible model for socially responsible, highly motivated students. Math provides a foundation to hook, engage, and motivate all learners in your classroom to reach their full potential.

Susan Nunamaker is a National Board Certified Teacher with a passion to help students discover their talents and a love for learning. Susan currently teaches third grade at Clemson Elementary School and is a 2012 finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (crossing her fingers while awaiting the results in 2013). She is the author of Backpacks to Briefcases, in which readers may learn more of her real-world teaching ideas. The book and more information can
be found at

Susan Nunamaker, Finalist for the 2013 Presidential Award

Susan Nunamaker, Finalist for the 2013 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching
Read More 

ASCD Features MC4K in Education Update

Click here to read ASCD's article entitled "Should Schools Teach Financial Literacy?" featuring Money Cents For Kids.  You must be an ASCD member and possess a login and password in order to view the article.

Greenville News features MC4K

Greenville News front page story about Hatching new companies.
Read article 

MC4K Partners with Kaplan Early Learning Co.

Money Cents For Kids is pleased to announce that it has partnered with Kaplan Early Learning Company to bring REAL and enRICHment to teachers and students across the United States. You can find our products and services offered in Kaplan Early Learning Company's catalogs, website, and conference vendor booths. We are ecstatic to partner with such a terrific educational company to bring real world learning to students across the country!

MC4K Founder Presents at National ASCD Conference.


MC4K founder, Susan Nunamaker, was honored to present at the National ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) Conference in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, March 24th. Her session was titled "Real-World, Economy-Based Classrooms: Building Wealth to Diminish Welfare".

This hands-on session demonstrated a classroom management system where students are immersed in a real-world economy throughout the school day, leading to an authentic understanding of our financial system and increased motivation to succeed. Students become personally responsible for their learning through relevancy and purpose. Aligned to National Financial Literacy Standards and Common Core State Standards, this management system strengthens our students, schools, and communities.
Business Founders Sing Praises of Development Corp.

The Journal, Seneca SC
July 15, 2011

SENECA — Cradle to grave success stories were the order of the day as the Oconee Alliance celebrated its fifth birthday on Thursday.

Attendees heard from a pair of women who have turned dreams into independent businesses success stories and a third woman who is turning lives around, one person at a time.

Registered nurse Christina Wafer and teacher Susan Nunamaker both told the audience that they have found business success largely through the efforts of the fledgling Mountain Lakes Business Development Corp. The organization’s chairman, Carl Cliche, said the mission of the three-county MLBDC is to provide education, mentoring and opportunities to small business entrepreneurs.

That is exactly what both Wafer and Nunamaker said they received.Wafer said she used the resources of MLBDC to launch Blue Ridge Geriatric Car Management, a Pendleton-based firm that provides a wide array of services to the aging and their families.

“In many families, the kids have their own families, they are working full time and, in many cases, the parents are all at a distance,” she said. “My goal is to be an advocate for those families.”

Nunamaker has spun off her business from a popular classroom program she developed for her third grade classroom at Clemson Elementary. Through her business, the former financial analyst is now marketing her concept for teaching financial literacy to youngsters to educators across the state.

“My goal is simple,” she said, “to be at the forefront of financial literacy for children across the country.”

Cliche said the two women are among five startups, providing 35 new jobs the MLDBC has helped create the past nine months. The agency, which is in the process of developing an incubator site in Walhalla, is a partnership of Tri-County Technical College and the Oconee Economic Development Corporation.

He encouraged Alliance attendees to consider both financial and in-kind contributions to the MLBDC, adding that 11 incubator clients will begin training on Tri-County campuses this fall.

The Alliance audience also heard from Stephanie Enders, a volunteer with the Ripple of 1 program, which operates through the Oconee County United Way.Enders said her passion is to assist men and women who are living on government assistance to escape poverty and turn their lives around. She said the focus is on impacting the lives of children in these families.

“I tell them that if you are still living, you have a reason for being here, and that reason is bigger than government assistance,” Enders said.

She encouraged the audience to become involved financially or as mentors in the program, adding that 40 percent of the families receiving assistance want to “get out of the drama of their lives.”

“This is a movement,” Enders said, “not an overnight fix. We are teaching parents a better way to live.”

Second Graders Learning High Standards Through Money

by Liz Carey, Independent Mail 
September 2011

Anderson, SC

 OCONEE COUNTY — Second graders in Cheryl Marumoto’s class at Blue Ridge Elementary School get more than a gold star for doing well in class. They get paid.

While it isn’t real money, students do get credit for good behavior as part of the Money Cents for Kids program, Marumoto uses in her classroom.

Developed by Susan Nunamaker, the program is a way to teach financial knowledge, while incorporating positive reinforcement of good behavior.

The goal of the Money Cents For Kids classroom program is to motivate students to become responsible decision-makers on a daily basis, leading to a lifetime of responsible decision-making,” Nunamaker said. “This includes responsible choices in behavior, academics, and financial decisions. Money Cents For Kids hopes to strengthen both our students’ and communities’ futures by encouraging responsible decision-making within a classroom’s nurturing environment during students’ highly formative kindergarten through fifth grade years.”

Nunamaker is a former financial analyst who is now a third grade teacher at Clemson Elementary School.

Part of the School District of Oconee County, Maramoto’s class is the only one at Blue Ridge participating in the program. The program is used by all grades at Ravenel Elementary School. The program is in place in 22 schools throughout three counties in South Carolina and North Carolina.

The program not only teachers children about finances, officials said, but also about math, social studies, reading and other parts of the school districts curriculum.

This system teaches them not only about economics, but its ties in with the rest of the curriculum as well,” Marumoto said. “They’re learning social standards in how to behave. They’re learning social studies with the economics portion of it. They’re learning math obviously, from the banking and financial aspect and there is a financial standard in our district’s curriculum.”

Every week, students are assigned a job. From cleaning expert, to banker, to tax collector, to editor, the students have a specific task to do. If they complete their task, and work hard at being well-behaved, they get $10 in class money.

If their behavior falls off or they don’t do their job, they only get $5.

But, like in the real world, if they don’t do well on one day, they can work harder to get back up to that optimum pay level.

What I like about this is that they have the opportunity to make improvements,” said Blue Ridge principal Idasa Cobb. “If they perform poorly, it’s not hopeless. They have the chance to move back up, but there are still consequences for their actions.”

Students exchange their class credits for class money which they can spend - after they pay for rent and taxes. Rent and taxes are $2 each.

As the year progresses, students will learn about starting their own businesses, investing in stock and bonds or the lottery, and ownership of their desks versus rental.

Through this they take responsibility for their actions,” Marumoto said. “They are paid for their performance. And they get to learn valuable lessons about economics and finance.”

Marumoto said the students will also learn about debt.

We will teach them how if you go into debt, you can’t buy anything else until you pay off that debt,” she said. “It’s an important lesson to learn.”

Monday, students gathered around the bankers trying to exchange their credits and pay their rent and taxes. After a few minutes of surrounding the bankers, the children fell into line and waited their turn.

It’s really cool,” said Austin Holder, a 7-year-old in the class. “I like earning the money, but I don’t like paying the taxes and rent.”

Caleb Head, 7, said he felt the same way. This week, he said, he was going to work harder to earn more money.

I hope I get $10 next week. I only have $1 left this week,” he said. “I don’t know why we have to pay rent and taxes. I’m almost broke.”

The program serves not only as a means to teach, but as a discipline tool, Cobb said.

It helps reinforce positive behavior,” she said. “And it’s a classroom management tool. In another six months, I can see this class functioning on its own.”

Cobb and Marumoto said they hope the program spreads throughout the school as well. Already other teachers are interested in using the program in their classrooms, Cobb said.

And it’s already spreading into students’ homes, Cobb said.

“I heard one story where a child was in Walmart with their dad and he tried to pay with a credit card,” Cobb said. “The child started saying ‘No Dad, you can’t pay with a credit card. Then we’ll have debt.’ It looks like its already having an impact beyond the classroom.”

Getting Kids in the Money

Published in The Electric City News,
June, 2011
Anderson, SC

 Parents are very fortunate in the Upstate to hve some great schools as well as excellent teachers who are hard-working, conscientious and who seem to really care about the students.

 Parents can drop off their children in the morning and feel confident that they are in a solid educational environment. Every once in a while, if you’re lucky, your child may have a teacher who is considered a trailblazer, a risk taker and who has an exceptional mind and is willing to step out of the box and go for what most teachers only “dream” of trying. Susan Ridgeway Nunamaker is that such teacher.

 A former Anderson teacher, Susan is accredited with an impressive educational resume, as well as determination and resolve to do what is most beneficial for the student. Mrs. Nunamaker has created and implemented a hands-on program called Money Cents. The program has been such a success that it is now offered during the summer as a camp.

 Money Cents for Kids is a total immersion financial literacy experience. Students are immersed in a micro-economy and utilize the following of real-world and vital life lessons throughout their camp experiences: credit cards, debit cards, check writing, stocks, bonds, career goals and skills, government, taxes, rent, home ownership, insurance, wills, employment and entrepreneurship.

 Students are immersed in a real-world environment each day, leading to an authentic understanding of our financial system and how to maximize the money that they earn. Lessons reach across curricula to include math, reading, writing, and social studies standards. Money Cents for Kids lessons are aligned to South Carolina’s Fionancial Literacy Standards in addition to core curriculum standards.

 It is a cutting-edge and innovative program that strengthens our students, schools, and communities. Visit www.moneycentsforkids.com for more information about camps, after-school care, lessons, K-12 professional development sessions, and classroom curriculum teachers training.

Testimonial: “Our son Chase had Mrs. Nunamaker in the third grade. I was excited and concerned about having a new teacher because we knew nothing about her. She turned out to be one of the best teachers our son has ever had. She was so creative in the classroom and introduced them to so many new and interesting ways of learning. She is definitely an ‘out of the box’ teacher and presented a wonderful way to keep a classroom of kids interested. I know that Chase will look back and remember Mrs. Nunamaker as one of the teachers that really impacted his life.” Phylis Kinsey, parent.

 Staff  •  Kids Love It    Teachers  •  Parents  •  Materials