Why you can’t afford to delay financial education of your children – An interview with Dr. Jennings, PhD.

Following podcast is an interview with Dr. Amanda Jennings, PhD., postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) @ University of Delaware



The Podcast Transcript:


Abhijit: “Dr. Jennings, please tell us about yourself and the work you are doing at the Center for Economic Education & Entrepreneurship”

Dr. Jennings: “I completed my Ph.D. in Economic Education at the University of Delaware in May 2017 under the supervision of Dr. Elizabeth Farley-Ripple. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) under the supervision of Drs. Carlos Asarta and Bonnie Meszaros.

Before completing my Ph.D., I taught for six years at the middle and high school levels. After leaving the classroom, I worked as district-level social studies instructional coach supporting K-12 teachers in the development of content knowledge, development and implementation of lessons, and development of classroom- and district-level assessments. Since beginning my Ph.D. program at University of Delaware, I have continued to work with elementary students and teachers including guest lecturing in social studies methods courses focusing on the content and pedagogy for economics education in the elementary classroom; developing and leading economic education professional development for in-service elementary teachers; and developing collaborative partnerships with elementary teachers to develop social studies curriculum for diverse learners.

At the CEEE my work focuses on partnering with school districts and teachers to develop economic education curricula at both the second and third-grade levels. Our second-grade curriculum has been adopted by across the state of Delaware, and we are currently in the second of three iterations of development and evaluation of the third-grade curriculum.  

More details about this curriculum can be found here:


Abhijit: “Why is economic and financial education so important, especially for young children? “

Dr. Jennings: “My research program and teaching are motivated by my belief that economic and financial education is an issue of social justice and is essential in addressing concerns about equity in our society. Through research and practice, I seek to improve the teaching and learning of economics in the elementary grades providing a foundation of economic thinking that can be nurtured throughout students’ lives.

My research program focuses on the learning and teaching of economics/personal finance in the elementary grades. Through education, we can increase economic/financial literacy and empower all people to understand, participate in, and be empowered to change our economic system. For that reason, I believe economic education is an issue of social justice and is essential in addressing concerns about equity within our society. Specifically, I am interested in furthering our understanding of (1) how children think about economics, their naïve theories, and how that thinking develops over time, and (2) how we can design instruction that builds on their naïve theories, moving them towards an expert economic understanding.”

Abhijit: “Why is financial education so difficult to teach and what are some of the pedagogical approaches that help children with learning these difficult concepts?”

Dr. Jennings: “Research in economic socialization tells us that young children are aware of the adult world of economics/personal finance, but that their perspective on the world is not that same as that of adults. While adults understand how economic transactions work together in a coordinated system (within a market/mixed economic system for example: you pay for the cup of coffee, and the store owner uses that money to pay her expenses, and hopefully has money left over as profit), children until about the age of 11 view the world through a social lens. They would view the same transaction of paying for coffee as kindness or favor. While they may understand that transaction (coffee for money), they do not have a sophisticated understanding of why that transaction has taken place (other than the owner wanted to be nice and provide coffee for you).

This is consistent with children’s social world which is driven by relationships they have, and not necessarily economic transactions in the same what that adults experience. Sharing, trading, and giving have strong ties to children’s social networks and are guided by rules that relate to that social network. My research suggests that children are more likely to share and trade resources with other children they are ‘best friends’ with or with children who are popular.

Cognitive research tells us that young children have difficulty learning about abstract concepts like finance and economics. Because they cannot directly observe or experience the economic/financial system in which they live, it is hard for them to learn about it (as compared to learning about concrete concepts like the physical features of animals or counting/sorting objects).

Because of young children’s cognitive and social development, we know we need to work to first make abstract concepts more concrete and build on their existing beliefs about the social nature of economic/financial transactions. Using books like Liktoon’s boat can address the first strategy, making abstract ideas more concrete. Through storytelling, children can experience the interconnectedness of the economic/financial system and be exposed to causes and effects within the system.”

Abhijit: “Have you read Liktoon’s boat book? What did you like about the book?”

Dr. Jennings: Yes, I have read (and enjoyed) Liketoon’s Boat. I think the first thing I noticed about the book is the illustrations, and I know that is not the economic and personal finance content, but I think that is something that is really going to draw children to want to read that book. They are colorful, they fill the page and there is lots of visual interest and I think that is a great quality of a children’s book.

With respect to the economic and financial literacy concepts, the first thing I would like to emphasize is that there is a really wide variety of concepts covered in the book. So it is not a narrow discussion of concepts for example profit only, but its wider and encompasses themes that are broad about entrepreneurship and all of the concepts that go along with that.

So, one of the struggles we have at the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) in developing lessons for 2nd-grade students is that a lot of books about children running businesses don’t include the costs of running a business. They only cover the revenues earned and then the children get to spend those revenues without having to pay for the costs associated with their business. Hence, I think it is really powerful that in Liktoon’s boat the character experiences the cost of production and has to pay friends to help him.

In talking about Liktoon’s friends, I also think the idea of social network being important to Liktoon is something that the children would have a very strong connection to because while we are teaching them something new – this idea of using profit to satisfy wants – but we are also making a connection to something that is very important to them – their friends and social network.

I also think that the concept of perseverance is really important and when all of the little shell toys are destroyed, the character doesn’t give up but perseveres, tries again and eventually succeeds. I think this is very important for children to understand that it may not happen right away, it may take lots of time and tries, but you can be successful. “

Liktoon’s boat is a children’s book available on Amazon. 

Abhijit: “Finally, what is your one suggestion to our audience and the parents of young children regarding financial education?”

Dr. Jennings: “One thing we know in education is that it is important to start with what the learner knows, and parents, you know your children better than anyone else.

I would encourage parents of young children to teach them how to make choices and emphasize how our choices reflect what is important to us. Let your children experience both the benefits and the costs of their choices. This is where knowing your child is so important. While I know having boundaries and limits is valuable to protect our children, I also know that allowing them to fail when the consequences are small is equally important in raising children who will be independent, critical thinkers about economics and personal finance.

One lesson that stands out from my childhood is the time my brother and sister and I (7, 5, and 9 respectively) decided to have a lemonade stand in front of our house. We collected cups, ice, lemonade mix, and water along with a table and chairs from our house. After a couple of hours, we had sold all of our lemonade and had about $10 that we were excited to split between the three of us. When we showed our dad the money, he asked where we had gotten all of the supplies to run our stand. When we told him from our kitchen, he reminded us that those things cost money. He ran through a list of the costs of the lemonade mix, water, cups and then talked about the cost of producing the ice using electricity and “renting” the table and chairs. After all, was said and done, we owed my dad more than $10 for our costs. He took the money we had earned and we didn’t get to spend it at all. While I was disappointed in that moment (and maybe for the next day or so), I have never forgotten that lesson of being a business owner/entrepreneur. All businesses have costs, and those costs need to be considered when deciding what kind of business to start and how to run that business.

So, we probably didn’t run another lemonade stand, but we tried our hands at other things – we shoveled snow, mowed lawns and I also cleaned local doctor’s offices when I was in high school to earn some extra money. But all those ventured happened with keeping the lesson of costs of running a business in mind and not just the revenues that I will earn. And I have to imagine, that was a really painful lesson for my father to teach us. We came in and we were really excited to spend that $10 we got from the lemonade stand, and he took that moment to teach us we didn’t actually have the ten dollars to spend, we didn’t even cover the cost of running our business. So a really powerful lesson, but I am sure it was hard for my dad as well. “

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