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Trading stocks in the classroom

Introduce the stock market to students, and have them invest in the classroom, such that they are empowered to invest in the future

Photo of Will Fung
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This idea emerged from:

  • An individual

I came across this article ( a few months ago about a family with 3 children that already owned stocks in companies. This got me to think "What if kids learned about the stock market and traded stocks in class?" One could argue if students have an early exposure of investing in the stock market, then it would lead these students to actually investing in the stock market much earlier in life. For many of my friends and colleagues, the main hurdle that prevented them from purchasing their first stocks was that they have never done it before. I like to compare it the situation to playing at a casino for the first time. Initially, it's quite intimidating, but eventually one becomes habituated to the environment. For some people, it's just about getting over that initial hump.

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

The target audience are students at the elementary and/or middle school levels. Students benefit by gaining early exposure of investing in stocks. The goal is to have students actually investing in the stock market earlier in life. Teachers are an important component as they would be educating students and monitoring the classes' stocks . With more than half of Americans not currently investing in the stock market, teachers, whether a novice or experienced investor, can benefit by expanding their knowledge in financial markets.

How is your idea specifically using the power of communities to improve financial opportunities and resources? 

Educational institutions are an integral component of communities. If families are not taking an active role in educating their children about financial responsibilities, schools serve as a great way to introduce and teach practical life lessons and skills. Something that needs to be considered is that schools are supposed to be locations for safe interactions, so such a program will need to be designed such that students are not afraid to take risks and are not put down by their peers for not performing well.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

The main assumption is that if students learn about investing in stocks inside the class room, then they will invest in stocks outside of the classroom. With such initiatives already taking place in the US, such as Stocks In The Future (, a lightweight experiment is to give a sample size of students, who took part in Stocks In The Future or another class room stock market program, some money (for example: $100) for filling out a survey that asks for age, family income size, and what they will do with the $100. The intent of the survey is to not bias students into a certain response and to determine which students are sufficiently financially stable enough to invest the money. Students that are unable to meet basic needs will most likely not invest the money. If a certain percentage (needs to be determine as a criteria for success) of students that are sufficiently financially stable say that they will invest the money in the stock market, instead of spending it right away, it is a good indication that the program is working. 

What skills, input or guidance might you be seeking from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

- People with financial backgrounds or stock traders - Determining content such that concepts are simplified enough for students to grasp, but also are not diluted to the point where practical information is lost.

- Teachers, educators, educational psychology - Designing the curriculum to fit the target audience.

- Programmers and UI/UX designers - Designing and building an app or an online tool, if classrooms have the proper infrastrucutre


Join the conversation:

Photo of Eliza Rosenbaum

Hey Will, we love the conversation that's been happening here! We know you've talked a bit to Zoe Rose (Mock stock,, but we wanted to encourage you to keep up this conversation! We loved where it was going, and it would be great to see you continue to work together as Mock Stock develops further during the Refinement phase. Maybe you guys can find a way to work together to build out some user scenarios and test a small prototype!

Photo of Zoë Rose

Hey Will,

Very cool idea! I had a similar instinct about using stocks to help educate children about real ways to make the most of their money: Might we be able to build upon each other's concepts or entertain the possibility of blending our ideas?

I was thinking it would be neat to use actual stock prices that reflect the market in "real time." This way, students could compare best investment options across and within industries, learning valuable lessons about what drives brand success. I also believe there is a lot to learn about the current status of various industries from tracking the companies that go public.

Although, perhaps my idea about using percentages of the "real-life numbers" would be a step too complex for elementary/middle school students. What if this program transcended age groups, becoming more and more like the real thing as students moved up in school? By the time they were ready to start investing real money, they would have years of practice under their belts!

Any thoughts? I'd love to continue the conversation...



Photo of Will Fung

Hi Zoë,

Looks like we were both looking at how the stock market was doing when this idea popped into our heads! I'd love to collaborate with you on the idea of teaching children about the stock market! I agree with you on the importance of using real-time stock prices. Though it is important to know the reasons for the fluctuations in the market, especially the big ones, but "past performance is no guarantee of future results." It can certainly help to identify and measure risk, but that can be something that gets covered as students progress through the program.

On your idea post, I saw a comment on it about Real Money Real World, a program at OSU. I browsed through the website a bit and found most of material to be more about budgeting for different life situations, which is also important practical knowledge. Were you able to find anything about them teaching about the stock market?

Priyanka (see comment below) brought up the idea of also covering other investment options. I like that idea, but it will require more class room time as there's more material to cover. I'd like to see our idea to be more of a core topic in the classroom, but that will be a whole different challenge on it's own. A workshop program may be more welcoming by schools, but that means less of an on-going learning process. What are your thoughts?

Photo of Zoë Rose

Hey Will,

Just created a team for the Mock Stock concept and sent an invite! I just had a chance to check out the Real Money Real World website more thoroughly, and agree that it's not the most fitting example in terms of using the stock market for this purpose. However, it served as a reminder of some other humongous cracks in today's education system. Have you seen this video? It's a talk by Ken Robinson, put to animation, and it's incredibly poignant...

This makes me think some classroom time on the subject wouldn't be such a bad thing. Today's young people are graduating from school equipped with skills that would have served them in an Industrial Age job market! And I think challenging schools to adapt to the current occupational climate will most likely mean changing some core topics. Moving forward, I believe schools should encourage children to be innovative and resourceful through lessons that are immediately applicable to the world around them. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself :)

I can imagine it would be a bit of a leap to expect schools to jump on board and incorporate a whole new subject to their normal curriculum, so let's start to think about the baby steps... Just going to throw this out there. Perhaps we could design a 6 week program that used subjects like history and math to explain the emergence, purpose, and mechanics of the stock market, then use creative storytelling methods to illuminate kids on the darker side of the system in a compelling way. Maybe we could hire specialized tutors to deliver the lessons, rather than expect teachers to adjust their styles to comply with the demands of a whole new program.

I can picture this being a compulsory portion of a history or mathematics class - just like all American history textbooks dedicate a chapter or two to the Civil War. We supposedly learn history so we don't repeat its mistakes, and I think it's just as important to understand the truths behind the stock market and its history, so young adults can enter the system armed with information and a deep understanding of this notoriously "cloudy" topic.

If we go down this path of a 6 week program, what do you think the proper age group might be for that? Or, if a 6 week incentive is too intense, how else might we approach it? Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts...



Photo of Priyanka Kalmane

Hi Will,

This is a very cool idea. Making students conscious about their financial decisions will help them make wiser decisions in the future. Also, I think you can extend this idea by helping them explore more investment options which will make them aware of the risk involved and ways in which they can better make use of sleeping money.

All the best!

Photo of Will Fung

Thanks for the input, Priyanka! Absolutely! I agree that other financial investment options can certainly be included in the classroom. Assuming this idea does make it into the classroom, the question becomes whether the subject of financial investment becomes part of the core teaching curriculum alongside math, science, arts, humanities, etc. If that is the case, I would love to see all aspects of financial management to be taught. Younger students can first start out with the basics, such as the idea of in-class currency (see Shane's comment below for idea link), and as students become older, then they can get into the areas of financial investment such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.

Photo of Shane Zhao

Intriguing idea Will! Introducing students to principles of investing early could spark their interests in the financial market and prevent future pitfalls. Is a specific reason why you've identified elementary and middle schoolers as the target audience vs. high school students? It'd be great to explore what would be the best way to teach stock market investing to a younger audience. Here is nice inspiration on how a New Zealand teacher empowered his students with in-class currency.

Photo of Will Fung

Thanks, Shane! My initial thought for targeting elementary and middle students was driven by the CNN Money article, which is posted at the beginning of the description. Off the top of my head, I don't see a reason why this couldn't be targeted towards high school students too, as the program can probably go into more detail, but I can imagine how a significant portion of high school students would not find the topic on financial management to be very interesting. With that said, the program would most likely only be effective to those who are inherently interested in the topic which would limit the program's reach. In the case of elementary and middle students, it may be easier to obtain the majority of the class' attention; thus the program's reach would be maintained. Of course the design of the program would have an effect on the program's effectiveness as well. I'd be interested to hear from educators for these age groups to find out if my assumptions on elementary and middle students vs. high school students is accurate.

Also, thanks for the link to the New Zealand teacher! Looks like they're doing some pretty innovative things in the down under! Combining these ideas could be very interesting - using in-class currency to purchase or trade for stocks.