Looking at money across the curriculum

Managing money has never been more important than now. But in a world where we’re constantly bombarded by compelling advertising, it can be hard to tune out the voices telling us how to spend our money. And what’s more, the range and complexity of advice can make it off putting for anyone to find out how to take control of their finances. So what’s the best way to get the key messages to pupils?

West Lothian Council’s Money Week was the ideal opportunity for Armadale Academy’s Mathematics teacher Rosey Steele to bring these issues to life through drama. Placing oneself at the centre of a narrative can be a powerful way to learn, so Rosey opted to use the SKINT! graphic novel to help S3 pupils explore the financial management topics and to help make informed choices in the future.

SKINT! tells two stories about a pair of young people, Jamie and Carly, each of whom face tough financial choices. Each chapter ends with questions inviting the reader to consider the choices available to the characters and decide which options are best. Jamie’s story follows his attempts to find financial stability following a period in prison, and different ways of making money are suggested to him, some legitimate and some not, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The book shows readers the consequences of each possible path for Jamie, and asks them to think about what they would choose in his position.

This format lent itself well to a drama performance incorporating lots of audience participation! Third year drama class pupils presented their adaptation of Jamie’s story to an audience during Money Week, with active encouragement to the audience to say what they thought was the best option. Having found aspects of Jamie’s story easy to identify with, the pupils portrayed the characters sensitively, immersing the audience in the lives of Jamie and the colourful characters he meets.

All third-year pupils found the experience really benefitted their understanding of the struggles people face to balance the books, and this teaching approach fitted in with Rosey’s belief that financial education should have breadth and depth – not just all sums and equations, more a ‘lifestyle qualification’.

The play was just one aspect of a whole programme of cross-curricular activities centred around money at Armadale Academy. Business Education focused on financial solutions and making use of technology to make an informed choice; Personal and Social Development focused on discussion-led activities around Carly’s story in SKINT!; Art and Design looked at designer clothes, exploring how to recreate designer looks on a budget; aspects of gambling were considered in the close reading passage in English; and Geography explored financial disparity across the globe. Even Chemistry got involved, getting pupils to explore the alloys used to make coins.

We really admire this project – it’s a testament to the hard work of secondary schools to provide a broad range of activities centred around a topic. Cross-curricular work can be tricky for secondaries to arrange, but the time and energy that have gone into this project has really enhanced the learning for pupils. Finally, we think it’s a great illustration of the power of narrative to teach any subject!

You can access the SKINT! graphic novel for free on our website, along with a wide range of supporting materials. For younger pupils, check out our On the Money resource, hosted on the Education Scotland website.