Financial Life Cycle Mathematics (FiCycle) provides a theoretically grounded introduction to finance for high school students. The course unifies the material around two key principles: transferring consumption across time and managing uncertainty. It also presents the mathematical concepts underlying these principles in a systematic manner.
It navigates the financial calculations and decisions a person must make over the course of a lifetime (the financial life cycle of an individual). FiCycle introduces students to the financial life cycle by telling the stories of a range of characters – high school students and their relatives, spanning a range of generations. We believe that teaching students the math underlying financial decisions will better position them to make these decisions in the future. We also believe that showing how algebra, probability and statistics can be used to evaluate financial problems will raise students’ engagement with mathematics.
Our course fits into a variety of high school mathematics sequences. It is also aligned with both the Common Core State Standards and the Jump Start Standards for personal finance.
We provide all the materials needed to teach the course including unit plans, student workbooks, quizzes, math worksheets, spreadsheets, classroom activities and end of unit projects. We provide professional development, ongoing teacher support and help organize the course so that it fits the needs of your students.
In contrast to the typical method of embedding financial topics in a math class, we instead outlined the most crucial personal finance issues and let the underlying math to organically fall out of those topics. By first being introduced to a finance concept, and then working through the mathematics underlying it, students gather a more complete understanding and are then more informed to make their financial decisions. Furthermore, we believe that showing how these mathematics topics can be used in real world financial situations will also raise students engagement with mathematics as they are exposed to its value in personal finance topics.
Unit 1: Financial Statements – Students learn about wealth by creating income statements, balance sheets and budgets. This incorporates the mathematics of spreadsheets and a review of Algebra I.
Unit 2: Earning Interest – Students learn how transferring money to the future increases value through compounding. This incorporates the mathematics of exponents, exponentials and logarithms.
Unit 3: Regular Payments – Students learn the math underlying regular cash flows such as mortgages and retirement savings. This incorporates the mathematics of sequences, series and limits.
Unit 4: Insurance and Expected Value – Students are introduced to risk and making decisions in the face of uncertainty. This incorporates the mathematics of probability and expected value.
Unit 5: Stocks and Risk – Students learn about the stock market, with a focus on the efficient market hypothesis and the statistics related to diversified and systemic risk. This incorporates the mathematics of correlation and normal distributions.
Alternative Unit: The Role of Government – Students gain an understanding of the government’s role in shaping the environment in which individuals make financial decisions. This involves applying mathematics to real-world situations.
Alternative Unit: Complex numbers and trigonometric functions of the unit circle – Students learn complex numbers and trigonometric functions of the unit circle. This builds on the mathematics of compound interest to develop functions of complex numbers on the unit circle.
Alternative Unit: Advanced Extensions – Students investigate more advanced mathematical models of the financial topics discussed in the previous five units. This may provide advanced students with a strong foundation to go on to a first course in calculus.