From Trade to Plastic: The Evolution of Money in America

Author: Terry Anne Wildman


Overbrook Elementary School

Year: 2015

Seminar: Roots of the American Empire

Grade Level: 1-4

Keywords: financial health, money, piggy bank, savings, trade, trading

School Subject(s): Math, Social Studies

From Trade to Plastic: The Evolution of Money in America is a curriculum unit designed for fourth and fifth graders that offer an opportunity to explore the history of trade and currency in America. Students will learn about bartering, what it is and how it works, through an interactive game. They will examine what currency looks like in Colonial America and the difficulties the Colonists had trading among themselves and with other countries. Students will explore the effects of counterfeiting in America and the punishments handed down to those who were caught. Students will understand the connection between money and the gold standard – how the quantity of money printed was backed by the amount of gold held in reserves by the Federal Reserve Bank. Students will explore the creation of charge cards and the difference between credit and debit cards. This unit culminates in the creation of a financial plan, a plan that students design to begin savings and record how much they spend of their earnings (allowances). One suggested extension lesson uses the Monopoly games to provide students with practice in buying and selling property and using strategies to keep enough money to stay in the game.

For elementary students, providing opportunities to discuss and explore trading, currency, and financial planning is important for the economic health of our Nation. It has been recommended that students as young as third grade receive lessons around savings, the cost of credit cards, and borrowing funds for higher learning. Saving for future goals, whether in a piggy bank or a savings account is the first step in understanding the importance of saving a portion of one’s earnings. The financial health of the individual (student) has an effect on the financial health of the Nation.

Download Unit: Wildman-Terry-Anne-unit.pdf

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