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

$martPath

Video-based financial lessons offer basic info in a sometimes silly package

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Grades
1–8
Subjects & Skills
Math, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Story-based videos add some interest and humor.

Cons: No customization limits how students can access info.

Bottom Line: Animated videos, activities, and assessments need more depth and student agency.

$martPath's guided video lessons are best when viewed as a whole class to encourage lively group discussions and to help teachers make sure students grasp the most pertinent information. Levels contain three lessons, a pre- and post-assessment, and a printable homework assignment. Although this doesn't seem like enough content for a full unit, it's the perfect amount for those few days between curriculum chapters. 

Because some lessons contain a bit of math, teachers for each grade can use these financial lessons to either pre-teach specific math concepts or practice skills previously taught. Some content is flexible enough for teachers to review earlier levels or push ahead for fun enrichment. The standalone videos could supplement the lessons or be used as inspiration for students to make their own songs and skits to demonstrate what they've learned.

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$mart Path offers video lessons, assessments, and materials for teachers who want to add a bit of financial literacy to their curriculum for first through sixth grade. Video lessons are designed to be presented to the whole class and introduce financial concepts in the context of silly stories. Younger kids are entertained by Lieutenant Maynard on his quest to capture Blackbeard the Pirate while they learn about spending money on what you need and saving to buy what you want. Older students follow middle school characters as they face everyday challenges, like purchasing books for school, or tackle an out-of-this-world challenge, like saving enough to fix a time machine. There are also discussion prompts and interactive tasks. All levels include three lessons and a homework assignment. Although each level includes opportunities for decision-making and practicing delayed gratification, they differ in the more concrete financial content. The mathematics content corresponds with the standards for each grade.  

The classroom teacher is the only one who needs to have an account -- there's no need for students to keep track of yet another username or password. When it's time for instruction, teachers can find lessons complete with materials and a homework assignment. Links to printable versions of these activities as well as both the pre- and post-assessments are embedded right in the lesson plans. Students can also access online assessments with a link and only have to enter their name. Assessment results display both the number of correct answers as well as specific items missed.

$mart Path videos are an easy way to deliver lessons, and embedding concepts into funny stories makes them more accessible to younger kids. Although the three-lesson format serves up bite-size material that's easy to digest, it doesn't allow for in-depth practice or provide opportunities for further exploration. The math is also right on point for each grade level, and calculators are used in lower-level lessons. Tasks in the higher levels offer more math practice than learning opportunities, so these teachers should be prepared with their own supplemental lesson. It's also nice that there are classroom activities, assessments, and homework, so teachers essentially have everything they need.

Though each piece of a lesson is there to use, very few allow for higher-order thinking or student agency. Many assessments are multiple choice, and activities often only explore the surface level of concepts. The videos are passive, and although the animation and humor are great attempts at making potentially dry subject matter more interesting, the exposition is sometimes too long. Also, some characters (like the "dumb jock") are a bit cringeworthy. And while the girl in the middle school video has slightly darker skin than the boys, overall, not all kids will see themselves represented in the characters. That said, the program offers solid information with some varied career and schooling paths, math practice (which many programs don't have), and the full range of classroom materials.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Definite efforts to make material fun and add narrative, though older kids may find it cheesy. The videos can seem a bit long for the amount of information they provide.

Pedagogy

Opportunities for higher-level thinking, like decision-making, are sprinkled throughout. There are relatively few lessons, which limits the amount of content at each level.

Support

Material is well organized and ready to use. With only one language option, no closed-captioning, and no option for using text-to-speech with online assessments, many students will have trouble accessing this content.


Common Sense reviewer
Carrie Garges Classroom teacher

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Featured review by
Julie C. , Special education instructor
Special education instructor
Columbus International High School
Columbus, United States
Great Product to Introduce Financial Literacy
I used this as an introduction to financial literacy. It does not go deep enough, but was a good place to start. Each lesson with the videos and activities only take about 20 minutes. It can really only be done as a large group but the activities do allow for student participation; choosing how much to budget, what things can be taken out to improve savings, making decisions about what a character chooses to do in order to save money. I currently do not have any ELL students, but I think it would al ...
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