Dinosaur: A Very Large Dog with No Fur

I was participating in a webinar yesterday about kids and money. And by ‘participating’ I mean ‘listening’. That’s because I was cooking dinner at the same time.

The experts were a certified financial planner and an executive director in retail banking. They both had good things to say about kids and money. For example, they endorsed giving kids an allowance for the purpose of teaching kids how to effectively manage money. I’m all over that.

But, as someone with a child development background, I’m always amused…okay, I’m actually always annoyed, when adults try to take “big” words and simplify them for kids. For some reason, adults think they’re making things easier for kids.

Let me give you an example. When I taught elementary school, it bothered me to no end that math textbooks called 3 + 2 = 5 a ‘number sentence’. What the heck? It’s an equation…both sides of the ‘equal sign’ have the same value. What do you mean, ‘number sentence’?

Actually, I know exactly what they mean. Adults think that since kids are learning about writing sentences, they learn that a sentence needs to be complete. Beginning, middle, and end (or, if you prefer, subject and predicate). They think that kids can make the connection between what they’re learning in language arts and math. Oh, I get it. It’s a number sentence…just like when we write sentences during writing centers.

And maybe kids do make the connection. But why not just call an equation an equation?

I did an experiment when I was working twice a week in a K/1 classroom. I started to call all the ‘number sentences’ equations. At first, it was amusing to hear the kids try and get the word out of their mouths. But it didn’t take long for that to happen and pretty soon an equation had become an equation.

So here’s my issue with last night’s webinar (which otherwise I thought was pretty good). The experts were using the terms ‘money in’ and ‘money out’ to help kids understand what deposits and withdrawals were. I don’t have a problem with that as long as the “helpful” words are tied to the real definitions. In other words, if you say to kids, “To buy that, you’re going to need to take money out, withdraw money, from your account.” Eventually, the words ‘money out’ and ‘money in’ are dropped.

But I never heard the words ‘withdraw’ or ‘deposit’. So at what point do these experts think we should begin calling a deposit a deposit? And, to potentially add to the confusion, ‘income’ and ‘expense’ could also be considered ‘money in’ and ‘money out’. Now what?

We don’t help out our three-year olds by calling dinosaurs ‘very large dogs with no fur’. We call them dinosaurs and they manage quite nicely.

So let’s call it what it is. And you may be pleasantly surprised at how well they can handle it.

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