by Jimmy Marks
Recently, DigitalMailer sponsored the CU Water Cooler Symposium 2013. We went to Nashville to meet lots of cool people and see so many great presentations (I made one of my own, but I'm not bragging…there was a whole lot of great stuff on that stage).
The talk that really stuck with me? One that had nothing to do with credit unions or even with the finance industry...well, not the real finance industry, but a banker is involved.
The speaker was Tim Vandenberg, a teacher from Hesperia Unified School in Victorville, California. His talk? All about Monopoly. No, not a business monopoly - the game of Monopoly.
Tim's talk was all about his use of Monopoly to teach math to 6th graders. His approach has turned dozens and dozens of kids from below-average learners (some of them counted on their fingers) into some of the highest-scoring students in the school, and even in his district. He's a passionate guy and his work speaks for itself. The night after his presentation, however, someone pondered aloud "What did that have to do with credit unions and finance?" The more I thought about it, the more profound Tim's talk became. I realized it wrapped up five lessons every credit union should consider.
- Regulation is tough, but it doesn't have to be a progress-killer - Tim developed his Monopoly-themed course as a way of challenging students and raising their math scores simultaneously. His school, like many in America, was left hurting with the implementation of "No Child Left Behind", an act that has done a lot of damage to American schools by emphasizing the importance of standardized tests instead of "real learning". Tim knew that the math scores would need to increase and that students would still need an intellectual challenge. His Monopoly/Math Camp did both.
- Mary Poppins was right - A "spoonful of sugar" helps the "medicine" go down. When I was a kid, I hated math. My teachers showed our class "School House Rock" to help us learn times tables and parts of speech. Songs and stories made it a lot easier to digest. Tim's approach has taught his students many hard-to-master math concepts, such as compound interest, principle, rent and real-estate. Gamification strikes again! And this time, to the betterment of students' test scores.
- Kids aren't dumb - Young people are often dismissed in the finance industry. Tim's students learn many important concepts quickly and can stack up against adults…one story Tim shared had a local bank teller come to him in tears, telling him his children were too fast with their math. Several of his students played exhibition matches with Monopoly Grand Champions (yes, there's a Monopoly Championship) and won against them. With proper instruction, kids can learn anything. So why aren't we doing more financial education at a younger age?
- "Never trust a smile" - Tim recounted a story in which he played the game with his students and one in particular called him out for taking advantage of a trade. "Never trust a smile," he told his student - a lesson that holds a lot of value, especially in finance. Sure, a friendly demeanor may put the consumer at ease, but if they ignore the terms they could get burned in the long run.
- Monopoly doesn't last forever - Apparently, there's a "proper way" to play Monopoly and an "improper way". The proper way takes about 90 minutes; the improper way takes all day, or even a full week. I suspect from my many years playing monopoly that I've never played "the proper way".
That's five good lessons from one simple talk. Now, consider this - what would happen if you had attended and gleaned five good lessons from every single talk, of which there were thirteen? That would be sixty-five great lessons you could take with you, back to your credit union.
Why didn't you go again? And while we're at it, why aren't you already champing at the bit to go to CUWCS 2014 in Austin, Texas?