The Real-World Classroom model of teaching finance is part simulation part game. Invented by Brian Bean, this model of teaching is transforming Texas classrooms and beyond.
Real World Classrooms When Teaching Finance
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e323
Date: May 30, 2018
Vicki: Today we’re talking with Brian Bean, 14-year Texas educator, about real-world classrooms.
Now, Brian, your story to reach real-world classrooms, actually has a bit of a challenging beginning. Tell us about your beginning that was so difficult.
Brian: Somewhat of a challenge, if you want to put it that way.
Vicki: Yeah, I could say that! (laughs)
You could say that.
My family and I were the victims of a fairly-elaborate Ponzi scheme back in 2008.
I started this as a victim of a Ponzi scheme
They were targeting middle-income people with good credit, like teachers, and then they were leveraging our credit to pull equity out of real estate and business loans and then use that in their fund.
I was pretty naive at the time in personal finance. I was teaching science, and i just thought it all sounded great.
After about a year or so, some sketchy things started happening. We took a little bit closer look at what was going on and discovered we were in debt to the tune of about 1.2 million dollars.
Brian: We had to declare bankruptcy and kind of had to start over from scratch at the time.
It was hard, but, you know, you learn a lot through a situation like that. One of the things I learned was that there were pretty glaring holes in the education system when it came to personal financing.
I mean, I was supposedly an educated man. I didn’t know any of the… in hindsight, things that would have been MAJOR red flags.
I went back to school, got certified to teach banking and finance, got a Master’s Degree in teaching methodology and set to trying to fix it.
It’s kind of how the real-world classroom teaching model started.
Vicki: Ok, so what is the real-world classroom teaching model?
Brian: Some people like to compare it to a simulation, because there’s a component of it that’s a simulation.
But really, it’s a model that gamifies and puts the personal in personal finance — where what we do is we take the students in class, real life experience, and we blend it with an online simulator experience where decisions that students make in either arena impact the privileges they have in either arena.
This model gamifies and puts the “personal” in personal finance
Let me use some basic examples.
In the simulation, students get paid a virtual salary, but that salary gets impacted by their in-class academic performance. If they pass a test, they get a raise! If they fail that test, they actually get a deduction in their salary in the simulation.
Then they have to budget that money and manage it to pay bills, to do different things like that, buy assets, they get a credit score, etc. They have to qualify for interest rates and whatnot.
But then they can use those funds to purchase privileges in class.
You want to use a hall pass? You have to buy it. If you’re late for class, you have to pay a fine.
Desks? They don’t sit in a desk assigned to them because their desk represents their homes. So they actually have to buy their desk.
Vicki: Oh my goodness! So are these finance classes, or are these other classes besides finance?
Brian: The majority of my teachers use them in personal finance classes. I do have a couple that are using it in an accounting class or an economics class, but most of them are personal finance classes.
Vicki: So they literally have to buy the desk that they want to sit in.
Students literally have to buy the desk that they want to sit in
What the teachers will do is they will apply privileges to some desks that others don’t have.
So if a student wants that privilege, for example, you get to use open notes on a test, well then you have to own that desk, you have to have that privilege.
It creates a marketplace in class, and that’s one of the first major decisions students have to make. “Can I afford this more expensive desk I really want? What sacrifices am I going to have to make to be able to afford that, or do I want to go conservative?”
When all is said and done, the thing that really makes this model different — that really makes all these decisions carry weight, it takes it from just a game an actual accountability — is the decision grade they’re going to get, for what I call a life lab.
For doing that life lab, they don’t get that grade because they answered a bunch of questions right on an online quiz, or wrote a report. They get the grade because we actually sell them the grade.
Vicki: So they have to have enough money to buy an A.
Brian: Exactly. If they write me a check, they get an A.
If they don’t, they get whatever they can afford.
So the decision of what house I bought might come back to haunt me — or it might come back to be beneficial because I’m doing well on my tests, because I get to use my notes.
Then I get a higher salary, and then I can budget that.
We’ve tried to bring in as many real-world scenarios as we can — to have credit cards, bank accounts, checking and savings.
We’ve tried to bring in as many real-world scenarios as we can
They have a credit score they’ve developed. They have an in-class stock market they can invest in. We even have a random factor called “life happens” where regularly they would play a game where a it picks a student at random and then a random scenario occurs, and the kid has to deal with it.
Some of them are good, they get some money. Most of them are bad…
Brian: Some permanently change their budget. “You just had a baby. Now you’ve got to have your budget changed.” So you’ve got to compensate and adjust.
A lot of real-world finance is “How well are you prepared for the unexpected? How well did you plan for things you can’t control?”
“How well did you plan for things you can’t control?”
Vicki: So what are teachers saying about this particular approach, as they take their accounting and finance classes, and they gamify it — or “real world it” with the simulation on top of what they’re already teaching?
Brian: So far, teachers love it.
Students love it.
We’ve had a lot of phenomenal response from parents.
We’ve had a lot of phenomenal response from parents
Because what it does for the teacher, is:
1) it covers so many of our core standards, just built into the model that actually frees up a lot of time for teachers to do more in-depth things for certain units that they might want to cover.
2) The other thing is that it’s constant reinforcement, and it really teaches the students how these things are interconnected.
It takes what typically, in subjects like finance, we teach the different topics modulated.
“We’re going to cover THIS and get that done, and go to the next one.”
But this, and with real life, they’re all interconnected. The student pays his bills on time, he’s going to get a better credit score. If he gets a better credit score, he’s going to get a better loan interest rate. If he gets a better loan interest rate, he’s going to have a lower payment. If he has a lower payment, he can more easily pay his bills.
All these things the kids have to deal with regularly, just like we do as adults. The difference is they get their first exposure to it in a safe environment of the classroom.
Vicki: What is the feedback you’re getting from parents as they talk to their kids about this experience?
Brian: One, parents love it, because they finally get to look at kids and be like, “See? This is what it takes to provide this life! You didn’t know!”
Parents say: “This is what it takes to provide this life! You didn’t know!”
And so they love it.
We’ve had a phenomenal experience at my school, for example. Phenomenal experience. Parents were bringing in… Like the class I teach are all seniors. And parents are bringing their kids in — their freshman and sophomore years, and signing them up for summer school so they can free up a slot their senior year to take the course.
We started using this model in the classroom about three years ago, we had three sections.
And now it’s the #1 requested program at my school. We’ve got eight sections and two teachers teaching it.
I actually looked up the statistics last year in Texas, I teach a class called Financial Math. It’s a new course, and a third of all the students in all of Texas took financial math from classes in schools that used my model.
Brian: It’s just really helped grow that program in Texas, and it’s been a phenomenal thing, more successful than I thought it would be. I didn’t create it to make a business. It just kind of happened.
So, Rick, I’m excited for you. You’ve been enjoying teaching and you’re getting ready to head out of the classroom because of the growth that you’ve had.
We’ve talked about financial literacy on the show before, and how important it is to teach financial literacy.
Brian: Oh yeah.
Vicki: This is what kids have to know. We don’t have a choice. I’m fascinated by this. Now, do you have a website or link they can go to to find more about this model?
We have a company. The company is called Free Market Educational Services, and that’s a really long URL, so we got the domain fmes.us.
On that, people can see samples of the curriculum that we wrote that goes with the model.
They can get more information about how the model itself actually works. I’ve given you about the smallest tip of the iceberg that I can.
They can see demos of our technology, download samples of the curriculum like I said, contact us with questions, see pricing, and things like that.
Vicki: Awesome. Thank you, Brian.
Educators, I hope that you will take a look at this gamified, real-world approach to teaching financial literacy.
This is the sort of thing we talk a lot about on the show — keeping things real, keeping things authentic.
Check it out. Thank you, Brian!
Brian: Thank you, and I appreciate your time.
Contact us about the show: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/contact/
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford [email protected]
Bio as submitted
Brian currently teaches Financial Mathematics in a high school just outside of Houston, Texas and is the creator of the Real-World Classroom (RWC) teaching model. He has over 13 years of teaching experience, a Master’s Degree in teaching methodology, and received multiple awards in education. The RWC is the result of Brian’s personal hardships turned opportunity. In 2008 he was the victim of an elaborate Ponzi scheme and used this experience as motivation to make a change in the way personal financial literacy is taught. His story is an inspiration to teachers and students and his passion to make a difference has lead to the development of a model that is disrupting education.
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