When Kathy Stoughton would tutor students for math and science, she constantly noticed one thing: they were missing the fundamentals.
She said for the students missing basic concepts, by the time they get to the high school level, it becomes too overwhelming for them to learn that much at one time.
This leads many students to give up and say they're not good at math.
Stoughton made it her mission to prove that wasn't true. She put together a workbook titled, "Oh No! Where Did All My Money Go?" to help kids learn the fundamentals of symbol recognition and money.
She also created the Yum Yum Dairy Bar, a traveling program that visits libraries to further teach kids about money and budgeting.
Stoughton recently brought her program to the Mid-County and Punta Gorda libraries.
The program provides a digestible way to begin to understand key math concepts.
She starts by giving each participant $5 in play currency to budget. Students are given a menu with fake food listed, along with their prices. They are then told to make choices about what they want to buy.
The Sun spoke with Stoughton about her approach.
Do you think Pre-K is too early to be teaching kids about money?
"Oh no, it’s really important, because think about how many marketers are targeted towards kids. It's very important for kids to start to think and begin to be savvy with money. You can start with simple things.
"(At Yum Yum Dairy Bar) They were given $5 and given a budget, they thought 'what things do I want, what things don’t I want' these lessons of practicing and understanding. 'I have to decide how much I’m going to spend' all of these things that help them make better decisions along the way. You have to start problem-solving. That’s such an incredible skill later on. It prevents so many troubles later on. If you think about your own life and think about what would have happened if you learned a little more. I think we’ll have fewer financial victims. You end up not being taken advantage of, you learn to read the fine print. You don’t have anyone take your money."
Why do you feel passionate about helping kids with money?
"I think because if they get stronger with money, they are really less likely to be victimized. If they get much savvier and looking at money slightly differently, they use money as a resource. The savvier and smarter people are, the more our money is going to get used wisely and avoid frustration."
What tips do you have for parents? When should they start talking to their kids about money? How do you recommend they start?
"I think as soon as their kid goes 'Can you buy me this? Can I have?' and you can point out. Show them what money looks like. You don’t have to do complicated things. Point out the prices and talk about that so they can see it. You have counting, sorting, comparing — which is more? And how many? And symbol recognition. That the symbol “two” means an amount. I think the earlier, the better. Talking about the family's philosophy of money “if you spend your money on this, you might not have that.” Get them to pause and think critically. Tangible skills, patience, you might have to save up for something."
What about if the parents aren't very good with money?
"A lot of times people aren’t as good with their money because they're not as informed. They didn’t have the opportunity to educate themselves. They can sit with their kids and begin to think about how do we want to approach it? If you start at the basic and think let’s do the basics first, sometimes you can learn together and take some of the intimidation out. Even if someone isn’t that great with money initially, it’s never too late to start."
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You can learn more about Kathy and her mission at henryshelpers.com