Website review by Carrie Garges, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2021

Hands on Banking Financial Education

Video and in-person lessons take on finances from budgets to Bitcoin

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Grades
K–12
Subjects & Skills
Math, Critical Thinking, College & Career Prep

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Pros: Discussions and some hands-on learning drive home life skills.

Cons: Online content not as engaging as class lessons. No teacher dashboard included.

Bottom Line: Some creative lessons and helpful supports boost this free financial health curriculum.

Because the information is presented in both online and in-class modes, middle and high school teachers could easily fit Hands on Banking into a flipped classroom model. Teachers can choose which portions of the online course they find the most beneficial to assign as at-home or independent study of vocabulary or ideas before students join the class. Supported by this pre-learning, the group can use class time to explore concepts more deeply with the activities, games, and projects. 

Schools looking to engage the whole family can create a fair or family math night using the Hands on Banking Experience. Assign profiles to a family and encourage discussions at stations.  Don't forget to use the "Chance" cards to mimic unexpected life events, to keep everyone on their toes.

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Hands on Banking is a financial literacy program for grades 1–12, with lessons that could easily suit adult learners. This program offers three levels of curricula -- elementary, middle, and high school -- each with online courses as well as easy-to-follow plans for in-person instruction. Both online and teacher-directed lessons include activities with assessments that cover a variety of financial skills. No usernames or passwords are necessary to access the online content. 

Students watch short videos with characters and narrators tailored to their age range, and then read lessons with some printable or clickable items. Online courses also offer access to all sorts of financial calculators, making swift work of complicated calculations. Tables and longer formulas are suggested as in-class activities for students who don't have access to these online tools. The class lessons have prompts for classroom discussions, experienced-based lessons, creative projects, and even role-playing activities. Lessons and any necessary print materials are organized and easily accessible, with suggested dialogue and answer keys.  

The site also offers family-friendly home activities and a plan for the Hands on Banking Experience designed for high school. Each student can receive one of the 50 pre-written profiles. Using in-class centers, students engage in budgeting decisions for situations like childcare, insurance, housing, and transportation.

On the whole, Hands on Banking has a lot of solid material to offer, especially in the form of the lessons. Teacher-directed activities are on track for each age group. Lessons for elementary school students include links to songs on the internet and relay races using flyswatters to tag vocabulary cards. Middle schoolers are challenged with open-ended activities like party planning on a budget, and high school students are engaged in role play to prepare for job interviews. Specialized calculators are helpful and provide real-life experience, but they keep the math shrouded in too much mystery. Although it's split into three levels, each level targets a wide range of ages and mathematics, and might be a good fit for all grades in a given range. Teachers should collaborate with the school's math department to be sure math skills are appropriate for the grade level and perhaps to brush up on the mathematics themselves. Overall, the curriculum will work for a wide range of kids, as materials are offered in English and Spanish, and there are some efforts to insure accessibility. 

Though the lessons are thoughtfully designed, they're fairly standard classroom fare. It would be great if the online component -- in the form of videos and a few interactive elements -- were a bit more innovative and engaging. Also, the elementary school assessment, in particular, requires higher-level reading than what's expected for an average first or second grader. Although users do have access to the glossary, it's too vast to be useful for younger kids. Elementary grade teachers might prefer the end-of-lesson questions found in the whole-class lesson plans for more appropriate assessments. And, like a lot of financial literacy materials, students living close to the poverty line may not find a lot to relate to around Bitcoin or building wealth. Though no curriculum can address every student's situation, a bit more representation around varied backgrounds and life paths would be great.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Both online and whole-group activities present concepts simply for younger learners and build in complexity for older students. Online presentation could use more interactive tasks to keep learners engaged.

Pedagogy

Learn-then-test online approach is enhanced with some thoughtful, in-person activities. However, the video courses are fairly passive, and handout-based lessons might miss deeper thinking.

Support

Lessons in English and Spanish and accessibility options are solid. A more grade level-tailored approach to the elementary assessment, added audio for online assessment questions, and more data for teachers would help.


Common Sense reviewer
Carrie Garges Classroom teacher

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