I wrote the following post for Simply Budgeted last August. Given our topic this month, I thought I’d share it as a great example of how parents can extend learning outside the classroom. Enjoy!

You probably find it pretty darned easy to encourage literacy.  In fact, there are countless magazine articles and books and workshops out there on this very subject.  And so all good parents read to their kids every night, play word games with them, give them magnetic letters for the fridge.

But what about math?  If you’re like most parents, the idea of working math into the day probably seems down right daunting.  Scary even.

It’s not as hard as you think, especially if you’re willing to give into your children’s demands for a regular allowance.  Money is an instant math lesson—and can motivate even the most reluctant student (adult or child).

Here’s how:

The Even Split: If you want to use allowance to encourage savings and charitable giving, you’re at least half way there.  One way to do this is to require kids to split their allowance into three equal accounts: spending, saving and giving.  If your five year old gets $3 per week, $1 goes in each pot.  But what about the kid who gets $6 a week?  Or worse, $10 a week?  Pose these questions, and let your child figure it out.

The lesson: Factoring and division

Percent, Per Week: For a more complex math problem, consider uneven distributions, say 20% spending, 20% giving and 60% saving.  Or encourage your child to put aside a certain percent of savings for a particular goal, like a new iPod.  Or enforce a different distribution around the holidays, when she buys gifts for her friends.  If she can’t do the math, she doesn’t get paid!

The lesson: Percents

Accounting for Savings: If you have a little investor on your hands—and some of us do—show him how to create a simple register for recording his savings and spending.  He’ll get a first-hand look at how his stash can grow (or shrink).

The lesson: Addition and subtraction

Project Savings: Your child will inevitably want something she can’t afford.  In that situation, help her figure out when she’ll have enough money in savings.  Can she wait that long?  If not, consider giving her a loan, with interest and a regular payment plan.  Show her how the interest is calculated and even help her figure out the total interest on the loan.

The lesson: Using formulas and problem solving

Math may be hard for you, but with a little bit of creativity allowance can help your kids practice their skills—and become a little more savvy with their own money.  Now all you have to do is remember your kids’ payday.

How have you used allowance as an impromptu (or regular) math lesson? Share your stories in the comments section.Save

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