Budgeting with Simulations

Educator utilizes simulated learning to teach students about budgeting.
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About this Micro-credential

Apply for a micro-credential before December 22nd, 2017 for a $75 Amazon gift card!*

*Offer valid until 12/22/2017. To receive a gift card, participant must complete all portions of the micro-credential application including the optional survey. Gift cards will be awarded in the form of Amazon eGift Cards emailed to the account specified by the participant. Each participant can receive maximum one gift card. GFLEC reserves the right to withdraw this offer at any time.

Key Method

The educator understands the benefits of active learning and chooses or creates a simulation to engage students in real-world financial decisions in order to communicate the importance of budgeting.

Method Components

What is a simulation?

Simulations are educational tools that replicate real-world situations in a controlled setting in which students are faced with decisions and their consequences in order to develop knowledge or skill sets.

Components of a simulation

  • Goal: Which facts, skills, or behaviors should the students learn by completing the simulation?
  • Resources: The physical and/or digital resources that will be used during the simulation.
  • Environment: This is the conceptual framework or “story” in which the students are placed.
  • Roles: What is the role for each student during the simulation?
  • Rules: Guidelines for completion of the simulation.
  • Evaluation Method: How will the students’ performance be evaluated? Will it be based on completion, quality of work, or a desired outcome?
  • Debriefing: Reviewing the activity to reinforce the goals of the simulation.

(Adapted from Zapalska, Brozik & Rudd, 2012)

Suggested Implementation:

  1. Introduce budgeting as a personal finance skill and discuss the purposes and benefits of developing a budget.
  2. Choose a budget simulation, either digital (fully online or on a software program) or “table top” (consisting of tangible pieces that students manipulate) to utilize with your classroom (See the resources section). The chosen simulation should contain a high level of fidelity (Lunce, 2006). It is also recommended that the simulation be completed within a single class period and simple in its structure (Devlin-Sherer & Sardone, 2010; Zapalska, Brozik & Rudd, 2012).
  3. Review the purpose, instructions, and evaluation method with the students.
  4. End the lesson with a reinforcement activity that prompts the students to reflect upon the lessons learned during the simulation. This could be in a form of a full-class discussion or written reflection.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

Budgeting is an important financial skill, but is one that is largely unpracticed by teenagers. While over 50% of teens report that they spend their own money, only 17% claim they maintain a budget (“Teens and Personal Finance”). Simulations provide students an opportunity to learn about budgeting and experience elements of the “real world” within the safety and comfort of a classroom. The most effective simulations maintain a high degree of fidelity and exclude elements that would be distracting in a real-world situation (Lunce, 2006). In addition, a large percentage of students view educational games favorably, stating that they believe simulation games can help them better develop their knowledge and skills of class content (Wardaszko & Jakubowski, 2013). It is important to understand that while simulations are enjoyable for students and educators, the most crucial part of implementing a simulation or game is the reflection period after completion, when students can review the lessons learned (Zapalska, Brozik & Rudd, 2012).

  • “Teens and Personal Finance – Surprising Survey Results.” H&R Block Dollars and Sense Blog. N.p., 28 Mar. 2014. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.
  • Wardaszko, Marcin, and Michal Jakubowski. “Economics in Practice: A Simulation Game for High School Students Teaching the Basics of Economics and Entrepreneurship.” Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning. N.p., 2013. Web. 2 Apr. 2016.


Free Simulations

Paid/Registration Required

  • “Mad City Money Workshop and Simulation Kit.” Credit Union National Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

The items in this following section detail what must be submitted for evaluation. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3, and a “Yes” for both artifacts submitted for Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(200-word limit):

  • How did you use background knowledge to set up this lesson about budgeting?

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

Submit the materials for the simulation (or hyperlink if digital) and a written rationale (maximum of 200 words) that explains why it was chosen.

Also submit at least two samples of students’ written responses to the reflection questions. If a full-class discussion was used for this portion, submit a video of the discussion.

Part 3. Teacher Reflection

Provide a reflection on what you learned, using the following questions as guidance (300-word limit):

  • How did this technique help you communicate this personal finance content to your students?
  • Which other personal finance topics can this teaching technique be used for in the classroom?

Part 4. Survey (Optional)

Please answer a brief survey about your experience teaching personal finance. Your responses will:

  • help us understand barriers personal finance teachers face;
  • and help us improve the resources being offered to personal finance educators

We appreciate your help.

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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