Te Kete Ipurangi Navigation:

Te Kete Ipurangi

Te Kete Ipurangi user options:

New Zealand Curriculum Online navigation


Tawa Intermediate

Tawa Intermediate School is a decile 8 co-ed school with a roll of 506.

The trial was conducted by Naomi Ennever and Andrew Graham, both Scale A teachers at the school.

Our school has created enterprise units of work, such as market days, but nothing with a personal finances or school-wide focus.

We chose to use an inquiry approach over the term, basing the unit on small mini inquiries. The inquiry approach encouraged values exploration, decision making, promoted conceptual understanding and critical thinking, which tied in perfectly with the Personal Finance Education (PFE) framework and the direction we wished to explore.

We planned a unit of work based on students working in groups to live as a family and manage their money successfully. Success would be in the form of being able to organise everyday costs, cover emergency costs that might arise, and save for a holiday trip.


Each child was asked what they believed is important for both students and adults to know/learn about finance/money. They wrote their ideas into journals and took them home to ask their parents the same question. This information was brought back to school and together we identified the common answers. Our students and adults thought it was important to learn about managing money, saving, banking, and to find out about earnings, taxes, and insurance.

We identified students’ needs from the student survey, our own observations, and information from colleagues and parents. We found our students needed to develop their understandings of budgeting, calculating wealth, interest, savings, and superannuation.

Financial capability in the curriculum

The social sciences learning area encourages 'participating as informed and responsible citizens'. We saw both the PFE framework, and our inquiry approach, supporting development in this area of the curriculum.

Using the PFE framework we wanted to develop the social sciences conceptual strand 'the Economic World', where students learn about the ways in which people participate in economic activities.

Our unit was based around the key inquiry aspects within the social sciences learning area. The inquiry approach is specifically referred to as a key approach where students will ask questions, gather information, consider ways in which people make decisions, and participate in social action. The PFE matrix is very specific and this made the process of planning the unit relatively easy.

Learning areas

Social sciences

  • Resources and economic activities level 4


  • Listening, reading, and viewing level 4

Financial capability matrix of learning outcomes

Managing money and income

  • Saving level 2
  • Spending and budgeting level 3

Setting goals and planning ahead

  • Setting financial goals level 3

Key competencies

Students had opportunity to develop the competency of 'using language, symbols and texts' through learning and using financial vocabulary.

Students were able to develop the 'thinking' competency through investigating aspects of financial capability such as taxation rates, typical household costs, and what is involved in renting a house.


Students explored the value of 'community and participation for the common good' through considering the different situations the families found themselves. This led to identifying and discussing values around sharing and support.

Developing capability through inquiry

We called our inquiry units The Game of Life. The unit was based on students living as a family and managing their money successfully. The purpose was for students to learn how people manage their money and the nature and importance of financial planning.

We posed two main questions for the inquiry:

  • How can any family manage their money successfully? 
  • How can I manage my money successfully? 

Success was measured by being able to organise everyday costs, cover emergency costs that may arise, and save for a holiday trip.

Ask questions and gather information

To make the learning as authentic as possible we provided students with realistic experiences, which included learning to use their money in a practical way. Students were put into family groups. They drew their jobs out of a hat. Dice were rolled to set up the family dynamics, such as whether they were a one or two parent family, and how many parents were working. Each family had to plan how to meet their financial commitments given their income. This included locating and furnishing a flat, arranging rental payments for utilities, food, clothing, entertainment etc, taking into account tax, and student loans. They also put aside a percentage of their income towards a holiday.

These activities provided the opportunity for investigations into gross income, taxation rates, whether they needed to study for their job resulting in a student loan, typical household costs, renting and what is involved, and insurance costs. Finding out about these things helped students identify the difference between wants and needs. This led to the development of new vocabulary such as ‘cashflow’, short and long term savings, and discretionary costs.

The first two weeks involved the students researching specific financial areas relating to themselves and their family. These included questions such as:

  • Where does money come from?
  • What is income?
  • What is income tax?
  • What are tax thresholds?
  • What is a student loan?
  • What are the regular financial commitments for a family?

We found out about specific terms such as discretionary expenses, cashflow, and short term/medium term savings.

Consider ways in which people make decisions

A wall display showing each group’s family situation, progress with their budgeting, and learning, was set up. Each wall display had job, house, income, family, transport, budget, cashflow statements and short, medium and long term savings graph information. This meant that students and teachers were able to monitor progress. We could all see how decisions they were making were affecting their ability to live within their budget.

Every Friday, students had the opportunity to satisfy their short term wants by different offers such as: work in the backroom for a day $25; movies $60; decorate your house etc. On Fridays there was a ‘twist of fate’ in which family groups may be hit with unexpected costs where short term savings are needed. We developed a set of cards that covered random events, such as the washing machine breaking down. Students then had to work out a payment plan if their short term savings didn’t cover the costs.

The different situations the families found themselves in led to identifying and discussing values around sharing and support. One family with a bus driver and an unemployed person were trying vey hard to cover their basic costs. The class was very supportive in doing extra work to assist them to find accommodation, and gifting them items. It led to further investigation into Working Families and the support that can be provided.

Participate in social action

Students were given the task of looking at their own personal spending habits in a two-weekly chart. They created a personal cashflow statement, a budget, and a medium term goal. Because of the prior learning that had gone on, students were able to do this in some depth.

Literacy, values, and assessment

Our reading programme was incorporated into the unit. Agony Aunt questions were created as part of our reading programme. Here students had to read and respond to different financial problems. We used these sessions to explore values relating to finances and had some excellent discussions with students based around this.

To identify the success of our strategy we gave the students Agony Aunt questions that related to the key understandings we wanted our students to learn. For example, for setting financial goals the indicator is students will create a plan for short term and long term saving based on personal or family goals. We gave each individual student a question to answer along the lines of:

Dear Money Maestro

I have recently been hit with a dentist bill of $2,000 and had no money to pay as I live from pay to pay with any leftover spent on entertainment. My family was able to cover me this time and I don’t want to get a credit card. What advice can you give me to prevent me being in this situation again?


Niggly Toothed Tom.

Discussions enabled us to ascertain how student understanding was progressing throughout our programme. Opportunities for these discussions were provided within:

  • reading groups - financial education has been incorporated into our reading programme
  • family group meetings - where we touch base with each group and discuss progress and understanding
  • whole class discussions based on key understandings.


Our unit was very successful as the students were engaged throughout the process and have grasped some quite complex ideas. A huge part of this is because our unit gave students a real life context/scenario to learn and understand financial education framework objectives and indicators. We tried to make this experience as authentic as possible and the students have responded well to this through having real consequences for actions - making them think and discuss in depth before making decisions.

Feedback from parents was positive.

"I have seen his improved judgment about using money in a wise way."

"Enthusiastic about thinking through choices and consequences of these choices."

"[Our child is] more aware of how hard it is to earn and pay our way in life. They are also aware you cannot always just spend."

"The scale of the project impressed me and the detail involved/required by the students."

"My child has found it really interesting and informative, has enjoyed making decisions about spending... I really support this personal financial education in school."

Resource recommendations

  • Financial Literacy Series of Figure It Out books
  • Teaching Complex Thinking by Michel Pohl
  • School journals

Published on: 20 Jun 2017