• Education Research

    Studies on topics relevant to improved teaching and learning.

As a mission-driven non-profit organization, FiCycle is committed to promoting best practices in education. Central to our mission, we undertake research into effective mathematics and finance education. We also conduct additional research into further topics relevant to improved teaching and learning. Below, read our latest papers on a variety of education topics.

We also conduct research on the FiCycle Math curriculum to demonstrate the efficacy of teaching math and finance in an integrated curriculum. This guides us in the creation and implementation of our educational program. Read our latest studies here.

Latest Research

Math Achievement, College Success and Financial Wellness: Findings from the National College Databases

College attendance can confer many advantages within the US when it comes to financial wellness. However, the benefits are not uniform and attending college also comes with significant costs. One aspect of this is the relationship between the academic achievements of incoming students and their experiences after attending college. Combining data from the US Department of Education Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and the US Department of Education College Scorecard (Scorecard) allows us to investigate this relationship. We find that there is a significant positive relationship between math level and a range of measures of college success: future earnings, graduation rate, and loan repay rate. This suggests that when looking to college attendance as a tool for improving financial wellness, we must pay careful attention to prior math achievement.

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Calibrating Financial Confidence: The Role of Finance Education and Mathematical Confidence

A person’s confidence in their financial capability can have significant effects on their financial decision-making. In particular, research has shown that misplaced confidence can lead to unwanted financial decisions. A crucial project, therefore, when it comes to improving financial outcomes is finding interventions that calibrate people’s financial confidence – bringing it into line with their actual capabilities. This paper investigates the relationship between confidence accuracy and two explanatory factors: financial education and mathematical capability. We find that both explanatory factors significantly reduce under-confidence while there is not a robust significant association between these factors and over-confidence.

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The Combined Effects of Financial Education and Mathematical Confidence: Findings from the 2018 National Financial Capability Survey

A significant ongoing project is to identify forms of education that can improve the financial behavior of people in the U.S. Two key components are often identified: courses in personal finance and improved mathematics education. Both have been shown to have positive effects; however, questions remain as to how they interact – are they competing solutions, or do they complement each other? In this paper, we examine data from the 2018 National Financial Capability Survey (NFCS) to explore this question. We find that both mathematical confidence and financial education predict improved financial behavior and, moreover, the effects are largely independent rather than cancelling each other out – so that pursuing both leads to a greater overall effect than pursuing either one alone.

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Positive and Negative Financial Behavior

Educational interventions have been shown to improve financial wellness on average, but the benefits are highly variable. The variability stems from both what kind of educational intervention is being employed and what financial outcomes are being measured. In this paper, we use recent data from the 2018 National Financial Capability Survey (NFCS) to address this question. We divide educational approaches into two categories, personal finance and mathematics; while we group outcomes according to whether they are positive or negative behaviors. We find that while both personal finance education and mathematics are associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in positive behaviors, only mathematics is associated with a decreased likelihood of engaging in negative financial behaviors. In addition, we find some interaction between the two variables: among people with low math levels, financial education is associated with increased negative behavior, while among people with high math levels, no such association is found.

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Spreadsheets as an Effective Use of Technology in Mathematics Education

The use of technology is an essential component of high quality mathematics education. However, the use must be appropriate in order to be effective. Research suggests that spreadsheet software is equipped to be a particularly fruitful application of technology in the mathematics classroom. The use of spreadsheets allows students to deepen their understanding of both algebra and modeling. For this understanding to occur, though, the technology must be purposefully integrated into the mathematics curriculum to ensure students can appreciate its utility. This paper aims to increase our understanding of the role of spreadsheets in mathematics education and connect their use explicitly to research surrounding best practices. First, we present an argument for the value of spreadsheets in mathematics education, making explicit connections with research about best practices for the use of technology in mathematics. Second, we outline a strategy for incorporating spreadsheets within the high school mathematics classroom through a lesson series on retirement savings, in order to demonstrate how spreadsheets bring about a wide range of educational benefits.

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How Have High School Students Experienced the Transition to Remote Mathematics Learning?

In Spring of 2020, many US students switched to remote learning in response to theCOVID-19 pandemic. A key research question is the extent to which best practices in remote education are being followed currently, and to the extent they are not, what can be done to remedy this. Given its key role in influencing future success, students’ experience in remote mathematics education is of particular significance. To answer this, we conducted a survey of US high school students at the end of the 2020 school year soliciting their thoughts on remote learning in mathematics. We used this data as the basis for qualitative analysis. Our results strongly suggest that in order to improve students’ learning experiences in the future, we must increase opportunities for both student to teacher interactions and student to student interactions.

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Enriching Mathematics through Applications to Finance, Working Paper

Providing a high-quality mathematics education to young people in the US is of vital importance, and it is an area where there is a great deal of room for improvement. We suggest that one part of this process is a greater emphasis on applications of mathematics. At the high school level, a promising way to do this is by implementing an algebra course based upon applications to personal finance. This specific application has two key virtues. First, it is an authentic application that allows for sophisticated modeling activities that build conceptual understanding. Second, it is an application that is relevant to students, which builds motivation for engaging with the material.

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Financial Education and Conceptual Understanding: Learning from Mathematics, Working Paper

Best practices in mathematics education require building conceptual understanding alongside procedural skill. We argue that financial education would benefit from adopting this strategy. Conceptual understanding is required to adapt to changing financial technology. In addition, research demonstrates that procedural skills are better remembered if they are coupled with conceptual understanding. Therefore, such understanding is required if the financial skills learned in school are to be retained and applied in adulthood. We show how current financial literacy curricula do not emphasize conceptual understanding, and demonstrate how this can be rectified through a focus on the financial life cycle.

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