What is Money? - Lesson Demonstration (Transcript)

Cherilyn Narker, Druid Hills High School, DeKalb County, Georgia: Well, the big question that we have today is, what is money? What are some of your thoughts about what is money? Parker?

Cherilyn: Teaching with multiple activities and movement in the classroom is really important to me. Number one, I do teach on a block schedule, which having students sitting and listening to me for an hour-and-a-half at a time would just overload them. You might be able to talk for an hour and 30 minutes about money and hit all of the things that you're supposed to do in the standards, but if your students aren't engaged, then they might not remember anything that you said.

Cherilyn: How many of you guys use Pokemon cards or have you know something like that?

(Hands go up.)

Cherilyn: Was there a Pokemon card you really wanted?

Students: Yes.

Cherilyn: Were you going to do some stuff to get that Pokemon card?

Students: Yes.

Cherilyn: Yes, absolutely.

Cherilyn: This lesson was designed to teach students about money. We start out with a hook, looking at the dollar bill and having a little competition, a short trading activity to show the difference in the amount of time that it would take to trade using goods versus trade using money, some examples of commodity money used in the past, particularly during the colonial period of the United States. And we analyze the types of commodity money based upon the characteristics of money and decide what the problems with those commodity monies were. And then finally we wrap that up with a short presentation by the groups and a discussion of the forms of money that have been used, such as commodity, representative, and fiat.

Cherilyn: Just for fun, because we use this money all the time, right? We are going to do a little activity to start out with to see how much you know about one form of money that you use all the time. You need to write down all the things on a one dollar bill that your group can think of. The group with the highest number correct wins a Snickers. All right, ready? As many things on a dollar bill as you can think of… Ready, go.

Cherilyn: This class is a Principles of Economics Class. It is designated as an accelerated class, although anyone can be placed in it. The students are from a variety of backgrounds, they're a wide range of learning abilities, reading levels, language issues within the classroom.

Cherilyn: As we move through our lesson today, we're going to be talking about some standards and the one that we're going to talk about the most is that money makes things easier for us, it makes trade easier, it make borrowing and saving easier, and then also that, without money, our lives would be more difficult and so the first activity we're going to do, we're going to find out is this true. Does money make our life easier, or more difficult, and why? So I'm going to hand out to you some cards. There are going to be two groups of ten. Here is your card—don't do anything with it yet. Now one of the things says you have a certain item, right? The other one says that you want a certain item. So what do you think you're going to do to get the item you want?

Students: Trade!

Cherilyn: You're going to trade what you have to somebody else to get the item you want.

(Students negotiate trading.)

Cherilyn: All right, a minute and eight seconds. So we're going to try to change this up a little bit. What I would like you to do is get everybody's pieces of paper back to them so that they have their names. Ignore the denomination on here—this is just money, all right? This is just money. It's not necessarily a hundred dollars, it's just money.
(Students negotiate a second round of trading.)

Cherilyn: You went from a minute eight to 27 seconds! What is the primary function of the money that you used just now? What was the primary thing that allowed you to do….Parker?

Student: Cut down on time to get what you want.

Cherilyn: Being able to walk around and talk with your students, question them, ask them why they think something—you give a lot more one-on-one time. You're able to head off erroneous thinking, right off the bat and directly, and you can also give a lot of personal praise to students who are doing especially great thinking about a particular idea.

Cherilyn: The last thing we're going to talk about in terms of content today are the characteristics of money and what makes money good money versus maybe that's not such a good type of money to use. How do you guys get money? Very good, you either beg your parents or you go…. Edward, where do you go to get your money?

Student: Your job.

Cherilyn: You go to your job. Do you work hard at your job?

Student: Yes.

Cherilyn: Yes, you do. And so is that money valuable to you?

Student: Yes, it's my money.

Cherilyn: How many people in here think it's easy to get money?

(Several hands go up.)

Student: Sometimes.

Students: Yeah.

Cherilyn: Okay, there are a few, you know upper-class, elite people in here, who have money just falling. But how many people think it's really hard to get money?

(Most students raise their hands.)

Cherilyn: Okay, how many people work hard to get their money?

(Several hands go up.)

Cherilyn: Okay, and so you're going to protect it. All right, if it were not relatively scarce, we wouldn't feel like that, right? But it also would not have much value. Okay, what we're going to do to kind of drive this home is a little group activity where I'm going to give you examples of money from history. And your group—we're going to get into four groups of five. And each of you is going to have four things that were used as money in the past. And your job will be to make a chart—very similar to the one I'm going to hand out to you—and you will create that chart on your board. So you're going to have the number over to the side, then what type of currency it was, and then you're going to list the problem with it. And your problems are going to come from this list of characteristics. Well, the problem with this particular currency was it wasn't durable—it fell apart when people tried to use it.

Student: For card number four, we had a cord of boards, a bushel of wheat, and a bushel of peas. The main problem with this is there are fluctuations in value. It's not very stable for value. It's also not durable—they can spoil, like, in a couple of weeks, really easily. They're also not very portable, because a bushel of wheat weighs a lot.

Cherilyn:Teachers who are interested in doing interactive lesson plans like this should feel very comfortable doing so. In many ways, it takes a lot of the burden off of the teacher as long as you're a very well-prepared up front. It's an alternative to using the textbook that the students will find exciting and interesting, and it will catch their attention in your classroom if you are teaching from simulations and activities that might not catch their interest as much if you're primarily using a textbook.