Managing the Game of Life: A 5th Grade Experience

Managing the Game of Life: A 5th Grade Experience

Jobs, insurance, taxes, balancing a checkbook, bills, spending. These are all important aspects of being an adult, making financial decisions, and learning about economics. For most of us, we entered adulthood with academic training, but did not receive training on real-life responsibilities and situations. 

When 5th grade teacher Stacey Kababik came to TFS 19 years ago, she introduced the Game of Life to her students during math class. She wanted to provide real-world uses for the math her students were doing in 5th grade, but she also wanted to facilitate understanding of what types of career and financial decisions lie ahead for them. “I want the students to realize that math is used every day, even if they don't realize it,” says Kababik . “I hope the lessons that are learned through the math and the discussions we have will make them think before making some decisions.”

This year, Kababik has a math period beyond the regular curriculum periods to work on math concepts and the Game of Life. Students begin the year living in New Hampshire with their own checkbook and a register.  They must keep a record of all expenses in this checkbook. Students then choose from a list of 5-6 career choices. Kababik often provides STEM options and jobs they may not have heard of to pique their interest. Students then have to make decisions about a home with a mortgage, health insurance, car purchase, car insurance, a phone, streaming, cable, and internet. They receive a salary every other week to pay bills, supplies, and the occasional surprise expense. 

At Christmas, students have the opportunity to spend money on something they want through a live auction. It’s neat to see the different habits and choices of students. “Some students want to keep all their money, and some spend most of their money and don't have as much when they move to North Carolina,” shares Kababik.

After Christmas break, students come back to school and learn about moving costs (gas, moving truck, hotels) as they take a new position in North Carolina. They start learning to calculate tax and tips at restaurants.They spend the rest of the year making decisions regarding their career and finances. 

Kababik also likes to incorporate some of the Catholic Social Teaching concepts into the Game of Life project. At Christmas, students take an angel from the Giving Tree and purchase items for someone else. It feels real to students when they have to buy for someone else. During Lent, the students have to give money to the church each week. 

The Game of Life not only provides opportunities for students to learn more about math in finances, but it also gives students a chance to discover more about themselves. They get to explore questions like, “What is important to me?”, “What brings me joy?” and “Do I want a job that makes an impact, or one that makes the most money?” It’s never too young to learn about the Game of Life. We are thankful for the dedication and creativity of Stacey Kababik!

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