Financial Literacy and the Ontario Elementary Curriculum: What’s In and What’s Out?

A summary for parents of the 'money words' children are learning in elementary school ... and a few they are not learning.
TORONTO - Nov. 25, 2015 - PRLog -- Financial literacy is included in the Ontario Elementary Curriculum. A true statement, however money lessons under this umbrella may be as advanced as understanding the economy, stock options, or the levers of monetary policy or as fundamental as coin identification, understanding the relative value of currency – a dime is worth more than a nickel – or how to make change for a dollar. To give parents insight into what money lessons are being taught to their children and, when they are being taught grade-wise, Money School Canada has developed a new reference resource entitled A Parent’s Guide to Financial Literacy Education in the Classroom that will be available on November 30th, 2015.

“What parents need right now is an understanding of what money lessons their kids are learning at school and when they are learning them so that they can build on these lessons, fill gaps, and add value by providing students with opportunities to apply what they have learned in the classroom through practice in the home.” - Tricia Barry, Executive Director, Money School Canada.

It is no surprise that parents are confused. Especially when money words and terms, like bank account, compound interest, debt, loan, spending and savings aren’t mentioned anywhere in the elementary curriculum. Parents are unsure about where the classroom educational responsibility starts and ends, what aspects of money management are addressed in the curriculum and what they can do to help their children to become financially informed and responsible young adults. There are nuances in the curriculum structure and in the presentation of the information that pose interpretation issues for parents, and unlike EQAO and other metrics used to track student success, there are no measures in place that assess the financial literacy knowledge, skill and confidence of elementary students.

The curriculum is written by the Ministry, passed down to the School Boards, where it is then accessed by the teacher for final interpretation and delivery to students in the classroom.

“While the Ministry of Education is responsible for developing curriculum policy, implementation of policy is the responsibility of school boards. Teachers plan units of study, develop a variety of teaching approaches, and select appropriate resources to address the curriculum expectations, taking into account the needs and abilities of the students in their classes.” - Derek Luk, Communications Branch, Ontario Ministry of Education, December 2014

Beyond interpretation issues there are other factors that impact in-class learning about personal finance in Ontario. Curriculum crowding, access to resources and a lack of training or expertise are often cited as barriers to lesson delivery at the individual educator level, however some, like Genevieve Tran, a certified elementary teacher with a Masters of Education from U of T, OISE feel that the curriculum expectations and how they have been communicated to educators also plays a role.

"I was very happy to learn Ontario is doing this but when you look at the curriculum document, it's just a cut and paste of previous chunks of other curricula. It's not directly related to financial literacy," she says. "A lot of my teacher friends here in Ontario have never even heard of it. Teachers know this subject is important but from what I'm hearing, they haven't been consulted at all.” - Genevieve Tran, August 2012.

The curriculum document Ms. Tran is referring to is The Financial Literacy Scope and Sequence Resource Guide, 2011 developed by the Ministry and published as a reference for teachers. The purpose of the guide is to communicate financial literacy educational opportunities, across all subjects, that are embedded into the elementary curriculum [it hasn’t changed since it was first published].

Money School Canada’s Parent’s Guide to Financial Literacy Education in the Classroom provides an assessment of the Ministry’s Scope and Sequence Guide from the parent’s perspective. It provides insight into curriculum-based student learning expectations in two areas: 1] Vocabulary – Words and Terms 2] Expected Outcomes. Student exposure to money-related vocabulary is evaluated in the Parent’s Guide in terms of incidence and context. Learning outcomes are evaluated for the degree of impact the lesson might have on a student’s financial literacy knowledge, skill and confidence in combination with the applicability to a future personal finance choice, practice, attitude or behaviour.

Youth financial literacy is an important element of our national financial literacy strategy – Count Me In, Canada, 2015. Parents and classroom teachers share the responsibility for teaching children about money, which makes role clarity all the more important. The Parent’s Guide to Financial Literacy Education in the Classroom provides insight into student financial literacy education in Ontario elementary schools and a framework for use by parents to extend this learning into the home.

To receive a copy of A Parent’s Guide to Financial Literacy Education in the Classroom, contact Tricia at

Excerpt From A Parent’s Guide to Financial Literacy Education in the Classroom

Summary: Student Learning About Money-Related Vocabulary

An assessment of the financial words and terms included in the curriculum has been completed to give parents directional guidance and ideas for focussing their in-home teaching efforts. The following summary details the money-related words and terms that were not found in the elementary curriculum.

Money Words and Terms – Curriculum Exclusions

Money Word Money Word Money Word
ABM or ATM Enterprise Pay Slip
Allowance Entrepreneur* Pay Stub
Balanced Budget Expenditure Personal Identification Number or PIN
Bank Account Expense Point of Sale
Bank Balance Finances Post-secondary
Bank Book Fine Print Promotion*
Bill Fraud Receipt
Borrowing Goal[s] Retirement*
Cheque Identity Theft Rights and Responsibilities
Compensation Income Tax Risk*
Compound Interest Inflation Salary
Consumer Behaviour Interest Rate Saving
Contract Investing Scam
Credit or Credit Card Investment* Scheme*
Credit Rating Invoice Security
Credit Score Lend Spending
Debit or Debit Card Loan Sub-Total
Debt Minimum Wage Surplus or Surplus Budget
Deduction Misleading Advertising Terms and Conditions
Deficit or Deficit Budget Money Management Trade School, College, University
Deposit Needs and Wants Transaction
Disclosure Offer Wages
Earnings Password Withdrawal

Personal finance-related words and terms that are included in the Financial Literacy Scope and Sequence of Expectations [2011] are presented following along with the number of times the word appears in Curriculum Expectations. This summary reflects all incidences of the money word or term in all five years [Grades 4 through to Grade 8].

Money Words and Terms – Curriculum Inclusions

Money Word Incidence Notes
Bank 2 Used as an adjective i.e., bank certificate.
Billing Rate 2 May be covered. Included as an example in Grade 7.
Business 2 Discussed in the classroom.
Claim 2 Discussed in the classroom.
Goods and Services 2 Discussed in the classroom.
Interest 2 Use in the context of a mathematical equation i.e., simple interest [[I = P x R x T].
Taxation/ Tax Dollars 2 Discussed in the classroom.
Budget 3 Used as a synonym for ‘not having enough money’ rather than as a tool to make a plan for your money [income, expense and savings].
Income 3 Used to describe a demographic segmentation category.
Agreement 4 Discussed in the classroom.
Sales Tax 4 Discussed in the classroom.
Purchase 5 Discussed in the classroom.
Career or Profession 6 Discussed in the classroom.
Consumer or Consumerism 10 Discussed in the classroom.
Cost 33 Discussed in the classroom.

Money Word and Term incidences that appeared in the Preface or in introductory paragraphs in the Financial Literacy Scope and Sequence of Expectations [2011] were not included in the word count as these sections do not form part of the main Elementary Curriculum, serve as formal Expectations or provide significant guidance to classroom teachers.

Many of the Financial Words and Terms found in the curriculum appear in the context of ‘Teacher Prompts’, ‘Examples’, and ‘Sample Issues and Problems’. In these instances the explanation of the Word or Term is at the classroom teacher’s discretion.


Tricia Barry is the Executive Director of Money School Canada, a firm focused on improving the financial literacy knowledge, skill and confidence of young Canadians. Tricia has personally taught thousands of elementary and high school students, face-to-face, in classroom workshops about savings, smart spending, budgeting, borrowing and credit. She has worked with hundreds of parents sharing ideas and strategies to help them put money lessons into practice in the home.

Tricia Barry, Executive Director
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Page Updated Last on: Nov 25, 2015

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