Making money in the classroom

Mala Kumar

If you were to tell your class 5 students that they could make money in the classroom, what do you think their responses would be? If I were to say this to you, dear educator, what would your response be? “Are you talking about play money? Paper money? Print money? Really?” Do you think students will ask you how they could make money? Do you think they would probably tell you a thing or two about how they are already making money outside the classroom but could do it in the class too?

elephant In a fast-developing world, it is important to admit that life for students today is far more complex than it was for children in earlier generations. Today’s children have access to loads of information on everything including the meaning of money. But they need simple exercises to make this information relevant to their lives, and to understand the concepts in a practical way. Learning the formula about Compound Interest is important, but more important is for them to understand why we pay an interest. The understanding could help them to grow up into responsible citizens. I learnt many things about money really late in life, when I wrote a set of books for children on financial literacy called the Rupaiya Paisa series (see a review of the books in the July 2013 issue of Teacher Plus, Talking money with children).

‘Making money’ is often seen as a dubious activity, and hence, in a classroom, no one makes money. Right? Right! But if teaching is a noble profession, then why not become saints by teaching children lessons about something that is such an intrinsic part of the adult life? Because, making money is quite a decent activity. (How you make it is a different discussion all together!) So, let’s get on with making some money, legally, in class. This could be done in classes 3 and up, but for consistency, let me consider class 5 as our experimental group.

Let’s say you teach Sanskrit to class 5. Your lesson for the day is based on a Subhashita, the eloquent form of wise poems. The aim is not just to teach the Subhashita, but also to teach children how to make money in the class. You have 40 minutes to do this. Spend three minutes distributing 2 rupee coins to all 30 students in the class, and tell them that for every ‘work’ they do during that period, they will get a coin. And for every ‘work’ they extract from others, they have to pay a coin. Let me be realistic – you will need another 3 minutes to explain this crazy act and answer all the questions that may come up. Then you can go about teaching the poem. And finish it 5 minutes before the bell.

If nothing else, each student has still made Rs.2 for listening to you, spellbound!

Can you think of the many transactions that may have taken place in the class?

The author is a freelance journalist, children’s author and editor at Pratham Books. Her books include the Happy Maths series, Paper Play, and the Rupaiya Paisa series. She can be reached at

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