There are a variety of ways you can offer allowance to your child. Regardless of which you choose, you can incorporate important real life math lessons into it.
There are generally four ways parents can offer allowances to their children. Most of us end up using a blend of these:
1. No allowance
2. Allowance in the traditional sense (child gets it regardless of chores completed or not)
3. Allowance based on completion of chores (all or nothing)
4. Allowance based on chores (pay-per-chore)
Once you decide how you’ll distribute funds to your children, you can use allowance for math learning and dig into the fun of practicing finances with them. Here are a handful of ways to do it:
1. Compare Options: Where there is money, there are things to spend it on. Before allowing your child to spend cash on something, ask her to pick out some other things that she’s interested in.
Have your child compare the prices and the perceived benefits for each. Give her time to consider, and possibly reject her various options.
For the little ones, use comparing words like “greater than” and “less than.” For older kids, talk about how much more or less. And talk about how one of the large items could be given up for two of their smaller choices.
2. Track Expenses: Ask your child to keep track of his expenses. If your child is young, he can keep receipts in a shoebox. At the end of the month, help him type the numbers into a spreadsheet and total them.
You both may be surprised at the final results!
3. Graph Expenses: Have your child look at the previous few months. Figure out the categories in which she spent money and help her set up a bar graph showing how much money is spent in each category each month.
Here’s a nifty tool from the National Center for Education Statistics to help you and your child create a bar graph.
4. Create a Budget: If you feel like your child is squandering too much of his allowance or using too much of your own disposable income, put him on a budget. Together, choose an amount that is reasonable and less than the amount he typically spends in a month.
Look closely at the graphs for the past few months and help your child choose the amount to be designated for each category. At the end of each month, see how well he did.
5. Save Money: Have your child include a category for savings in her budget. This can be for any “big ticket” items she dreams of having.
Ask your child to create a master wish list. Depending on how much you give for allowance (or allocate for her), this list might contain American Girl dolls, video game systems, or Ferraris. Or all of the above.
Consider helping your child plan for her long term future too. Build enough extra into her allowance that she can save for college or retirement.
6. And Have Fun! Talk about money and math in a positive way. Model happy budgeting and your children will learn there's joy in managing their finances.
Remember, other parents want your take on this topic too. So don’t forget to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments, below!
Bon Crowder is a math education fanatic currently teaching at a private school for teens with neurological differences. She writes for MathFour.com, a math education website supporting teachers and parents, and is the co-creator of That’s Math, a program that helps parents talk real-world math with their kids.