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Otahuhu College

Otahuhu College is a decile 1, co-educational school in South Auckland with a roll of 1387.

The lead teachers Joanne Ellis-Smith, Sonia Leleisiuao, Monty Naidoo, and Shelley Wright were all members of the commerce department.

The commerce department wanted to incorporate personal financial literacy into the year 10 business studies curriculum, with the unit running over the course of 13 weeks. The reason we decided on this course is that we wanted students to have the skills to make critical financial decisions about how to effectively use money. Loan sharks and high-interest finance deals are easily accessed in the local community.

Our approach

We used the financial literacy questionnaire to test prior knowledge and identify gaps in students' learning. A lot of the language used in the questionnaire was foreign to students and required teachers to explain the questions. The results meant planning needed to start at level one on the financial capability progressions to ensure that we had buy-in at the start from all ability groups.

Many of the parents of our students speak English as a second language, and some do not speak English well at all. We wanted to provide our students with learning opportunities, and financial language and skills, to assist them to make wise buying and borrowing decisions in the future. We planned to focus on credit and budgeting.

Our approach was very much literacy focused. We worked closely with our school literacy coordinator to develop resources specific to the unit of work.

We met on several occasions throughout the planning and implementation process, and worked together to develop and redesign resources. The resources were designed to assist students to comprehend complex text, specific question structures, and general content, then apply new knowledge to tasks and activities in class. This learning could also be applied outside of the classroom.

Learning areas


  • Number and algebra level 5
  • Statistics level 5

Social sciences

  • Resources and economic activities level 5


  • Speaking, writing, and presenting level 5
  • Listening, reading, and viewing level 5

Financial capability matrix of learning outcomes

Managing money and income

  • Money levels 1, 2, 4, 5
  • Saving levels 1, 2, 3
  • Credit levels 4
  • Spending and budgeting levels 2, 4

Setting goals and planning ahead

  • Setting financial goals levels 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Identifying and managing risk levels 1, 3

Key competencies

Students became competent in managing themselves by setting personal goals, making a budget, and having the ability to follow the plan or budget in order to achieve a goal.

Students developed competencies in 'using language, symbols and texts', for example, through learning how to read a bank statement.


Students explored the value of 'diversity' as they learnt to understand different cultures, particularly with regards to differing values, and the impact these have on the financial decisions that people from different cultures might make.

Developing financial capability

To enable students to develop an understanding of personal finance concepts and apply these to everyday situations, such as having holidays, owning pets, having a job, spending and receiving money, and managing debt, we invited our local bank branch to speak to classes about saving, spending, and how to open a bank account. They found how to read a bank statement very useful. Students were particularly interested in debt servicing, and what professions created wealthy people.

Budgeting Services also came and spoke to the classes about attitudes towards money in the community, homelessness, and most importantly, services available to people with financial problems. The students were readily engaged as Budgeting Services works in the area and had many relevant examples. By applying the content to real life situations the students were able to see that this learning will assist them throughout life.


Throughout the unit we unpacked text using a variety of strategies and resources developed with the literacy coordinator.

 The resources/strategies we developed included:

  • Anticipatory reading guides – these defined the following concepts for students so that when reading articles, for example, from the newspaper in discussions, they understood the terms:
    • interest
    • consequences of credit
    • budgets
    • saving
    • types of credit.
  • Information transfers – these were designed to break down concepts into understandable steps:
    • budget steps
    • use of technology
    • consequences of credit.
  • Flash cards – to help students identify financial documents and their purpose.

We found flash cards were very useful to student engagement and understanding. Students were given documents with complex financial text and highlighters. They had to highlight the headings and the key terms under each heading, and then create a set of flash cards for each document type. They wrote a summary using each of the keywords they had selected on each card. Students were then tested with their own cards. As they finished their cards they were empowered to start testing each other.

"At the beginning, or after an exercise, I'd say I spend a good 5-7 minutes having a classroom discussion and getting them to ask questions. By getting them to ask questions you also realise what they needed to work on. For example, some didn't understand the difference between a credit card and an eftpos card. I gave them different scenarios using other students in the class, which really makes them focus as they like to hear their name, or someone else's name mentioned."

Teacher comment

Some students also created posters depicting the consequences of credit. We devised a flow diagram depicting the seven steps to creating a budget, in which the students had to cut out the steps and place them in the correct place in the diagram.

While teaching the numeracy component it was necessary to teach some basic concepts such as converting decimals to percentages and calculating percentages of given amounts, before teaching students to calculate more complex questions such as compounded interest. We used all the different levels of the Figure It Out Financial Literacy Workbooks and teachers guides, which, although designed for primary schools, worked particularly well as they engaged students in real life activities, and had opportunities for cooperative learning and extension work. These gave students needed exposure to financial vocabulary. We introduced and used the online financial tools on Sorted. Students learned how to calculate balances, cost, and interest. They became competent in managing themselves, by setting personal goals, making a budget, and having the ability to follow the plan or budget in order to achieve a goal.

The students, through working independently and collaboratively in problem solving situations, took on different roles, sometimes competing and sometimes having to co-operate. They learnt to understand different cultures, particularly with regards to differing values, and the impact these have on the decisions that people from different cultures might make. We were aware early on that there may be some issues with the students’ willingness to discuss money matters, due to the socio-economic demographic from which many of them come from. Essentially, this proved not to be an issue, with most students being reasonably open with their feelings about money matters.


The students picked up the new vocabulary reasonably quickly, connecting words and their definitions, and using terms in the correct context. Our students have developed an understanding of key terms such as consequences, debt, interest, bankruptcy, lending, borrowing, risk and credit record, and have been able to apply these to ‘real life’ situations.

“I found this work extremely useful both from a personal interest perspective and from a professional development perspective. I am more aware of student literacy needs, and am now more confident that I can tackle these in the future.”

Teacher comment

The students are more aware of the consequences of credit, and the impact bad credit can have on their quality of life. They have spoken openly about the credit facilities available to their families in the community they live in, and how these impact on their families and the wider community. Through anecdotal evidence the students are aware that credit can be good, in the context of mortgage lending, and how this can provide stability in the long term if good lending principles are followed, and people can afford the debt they incur.

This unit of work has helped our students to set financial goals, and to think about how they might achieve these. They have learnt that education affects the level of income they can achieve in the future, and that this impacts on their ability to achieve their financial goals in the long term. Our students have also developed an understanding that saving money helps people achieve their financial goals, and that money does grow by earning compound interest.

The students have been able to construct simple budgets from given information, recognising the difference between essential and non-essential expenditure, and making a distinction between wants and needs. They have made decisions based on price and calculated the overall cost of their decisions based on their money personalities. This has increased their awareness of how their families and their communities make financial decisions, which in turn impact on them personally.

Formative assessment was an ongoing component of the unit of work, with feedback provided both verbally and in written form. We pursued teaching strategies that allowed teacher/student co-construction in the solving of problems.

Summative assessment was unit standard 24709 v1, which was assessed at the end of the unit. Although the unit of work allowed students the opportunity to gain credits if they passed, there was a conscious move away from assessment-driven tasks, allowing the opportunity for lessons to be more values based. This was made more authentic by applying the unit to real life situations.

Resource recommendations

Updated on: 16 Dec 2013