Spring Contract Grade-Newspaper Article - Jill H.

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Students Take Stock

By Jill Herzig

Today's students are growing up in the fast-paced world of technology where information is given to them in new and exciting ways. When it comes to a subject like mathematics they are not as stimulated by the classic teaching methods of repetition and memorization. A phrase I heard from my middle school students at St. Thomas School was "I can't wait until summer vacation, so we don't have to learn this stuff anymore." As a result, I faced the challenge of creating a yearlong activity that showed the real life application of mathematics as well as portraying mathematics as fun. I decided to investigate a stock market curriculum through a regional publication. Though I liked the idea, it did not fit my time frame so my own version of the game was created.

The students were paired up and allotted $50,000 of fictitious money at the beginning of the year. They had to buy at least four stocks from the New York Stock Exchange and purchase them in increments of one hundred shares or more. The initial start up reinforced many skills for the students such as problem solving, fraction to percentage conversion, computation, and charting and graphing skills.

The students enjoyed the activity. Ten minutes were used at the end of their math period to figure out totals, and once a week they turned in an assignment portraying how their stocks performed. They now have an interest in which companies are represented in the New York Stock Exchange and are eager to read about company mergers and acquisitions. They have a new awareness of the national economy and what Arthur Greenspan's predictions mean for their investments. A financial advisor from the community was brought in as a guest speaker to explain his profession and to elaborate on some of the finer points of financial planning.

The students now have an added interest in the world's economy and current events. They see that what happens around the world has a direct impact on us locally. We were fortunate enough to be viewing the stock market last year when the Halloween crash took place resulting in a market shutdown. We learned a valuable history lesson after this phenomenon and related it to the 1929 stock market crash where many people lost their life savings. We were able to look at history and see why a "safety valve" such as a market shut down is necessary. It was exciting to have the opportunity to see this safety valve in action the week of the crash.

A renewed interest in mathematics has been stimulated from this activity. The students don't look at it as a math exercise; they look at it as fun. I have noticed a decrease in computation errors and a willingness to do their seatwork so they can monitor the stock market.

I knew the project was successful when parents expressed interest in the activity they had heard about from their children. Some students even asked if they could monitor their stock prices through the summer. I readily agreed to this extension as a way to reinforce the use of mathematics skills and keep the students abreast of current events throughout the summer. It provided them with an educational activity they enjoyed as well as creating a topic of conversation with family members.

This is an activity anyone can use with his or her children over the summer. Parents can aid their children in using the financial section of the newspaper. If a newspaper is not available in the home, stock prices can be found in newspapers at the library or on the Internet. With summer approaching, it is important to find educational activities for our older children, this is one that can be done very simply and will bring satisfaction to all involved.

-- Anonymous, May 14, 1999

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