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$tudents and $tocks
June 11, 2012
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Stock market game helps kids at Delano Middle School ‘invest’ in their future

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

DELANO, MN – Equipped with imaginary cash, many Delano Middle School students got their first taste of the stock market before the school year ended.

“It was actually pretty fun,” seventh-grader Marissa Markgraf said. “I thought it would be more complicated, but it was pretty easy.”

Markgraf and the other seventh-graders in Desiree Helstrom’s math class used an interactive stock market game to learn about financial planning and money management firsthand.

Each team was given an imaginary $100,000 to “invest” in companies of their choosing.

“Most of the kids were very careful with what they did,” Helstrom said. “They all wanted to be the one to have the most money left over.”

“Some people did electronics, department stores, or major companies,” seventh-grader Jessica Rychly said. “When we purchased Apple, the new iPad was about to come out, so we thought it would go up. We made a lot of money – close to $6,000.”

Sixth graders, too
This was Helstrom’s first year teaching about the stock market in this way, but Delano’s gifted and talented coordinator Gwen Briesemeister has been doing a similar exercise with groups of sixth-graders for the past eight years.

“They love it – getting online, seeing how their stocks are doing,” Briesemeister said, explaining that she and accelerated math teacher Nicole Pfeifer team-teach once a week.

Briesemeister’s students each receive an imaginary $10,000, which they use to purchase stock from at least five companies. Students check their portfolio, and must sell and buy something when they meet each week.

“Even though that’s not how it’s typically done in real life, it helps them get used to it in a short period of time,” Briesemeister said. “They can never have more than $500 in cash.”

For about six weeks, students learn to keep accurate weekly records of transactions (deducting a percentage for commissions) and collaborate for stock tips. Financial advisor Kevin Max also comes into class to present information about investments of all kinds and future financial planning.

“They’re encouraged to talk to others – it’s not like other homework,” Briesemeister said, adding that some of the students choose the same companies their parents invest in, or companies where their parents are employed.

According to Helstrom, some of her students actually invest in real stocks with their parents already.

Helstrom said there was a lot more she would have liked to do with stock market teaching.

“I could have taught a whole semester on just the stock market, but we just did it as a supplemental thing,” she said. “We had so many different projects to work on.”

In one budgeting exercise, for example, Helstrom’s students selected a “career” and determined the starting salary. Then, they calculated their expenses, and subtracted state and federal taxes.

“They were shocked by the amount that goes for taxes,” Helstrom said. “I had one class that was pretty wound up about it.”

Helstrom is taking time to be with her family next school year, but she hopes that the incoming instructor will be able to continue teaching about the stock market.

In certain schools, the stock market game is treated as a competition. According to BestPrep (the non-profit organization that created the official stock market game), some even participate in an essay contest, in which students write about investment-related topics.

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