Applying Financial Literacy in Math Instruction

Instructor: Tammy Galloway

Tammy teaches business courses at the post-secondary and secondary level and has a master's of business administration in finance.

In this lesson, we will define financial literacy and show you how we incorporate math in our instruction. You'll also learn how to calculate sales tax, interest on savings and interest on debt.

What Is Financial Literacy?

Tyler is taking his first class as a high school freshman called Money Matters. His teacher Ms. Hicks starts the lecture by asking, 'How many people did well in middle school math?' They all look around the classroom, shrug their shoulders and no one answers her. Then she says, 'Math will be important in this financial literacy course.'

One student raises their hand and says, 'What is financial literacy and why is math important for this class?' Ms. Hicks explains that financial literacy is the learning and understanding of how to manage money in the real world. Financial literacy helps you make intelligent and solid financial decisions. You will use math regularly in your everyday life.

For the rest of this lesson, we will explore financial literacy topics in which mathematical processes are utilized. These topics include: taxes, interest on savings and interest on debt.


There are three main types of taxes: payroll, sales and property tax. Each tax is considered a levy against an a dollar amount or item(s) to pay for state, local and federal programs and services.

State and local government receives a large percentage of their revenue from sales and property tax. While the federal government imposes payroll taxes to pay for social programs, the military, national parks, education and much more.

Taxes are simple to calculate since we multiply the tax percentage times a dollar amount to calculate payroll tax. For example, if Jon makes ten dollars per hour and works 40 hours per week, he will not take home $400 ($10 x 40). The federal government may impose an 11% payroll tax rate in which Jon would pay $44 ($400 x 11%), so his take home pay would be $356 ($400 - $44)

Sales and property tax are calculated in the same manner, a mandated percentage multiplied by the cost or market value of an item. These type of mathematical calculations are usually taught in middle and high school. Now, let's look how interest is applied on savings.

Interest on Savings

Interest can be defined in two ways, to calculate interest on savings, interest is defined as a fee paid to the customer for depositing money. There are two types of methods for calculating interest: simple and compound.

Simple interest is the easiest to calculate since we multiply the interest rate times the amount of the deposit, called the principal. Then, we take that amount and multiply it by the number of years. Let's say we have $100 at ten percent interest in an account for two years:

  1. $100 x 10% = $10
  2. $10 x 2 years = $20
  3. $100 + $20 = $120 total principal and interest

Now, let's see how compounding works. Compounding allows for reinvestment of the principal and interest for a specific period of time. We follow step one of the simple interest example, but instead of multiplying it by number of years, we add the interest to the original principal. In this case, we add $10 to $100 to get $110.

In compound interest, we reinvest the $110 at 10%, which will then equal $11. Our total principal and interest at the end of two years is $121.

  1. $100 x 10% = $10
  2. $100 + $10 = $110
  3. $110 x 10% = $11
  4. $110 + $11 = $121

While it's only an extra dollar, imagine if we kept this $100 in an account for 20 years. Compounding would yield a significantly more amount of money than a simple interest calculation.

Simple versus compound interest calculations are usually taught in middle and high school. Now let's discuss debt and how interest is calculated.

Interest on Debt

Debt is an obligation we owe, for example a car loan is an example of debt. Let's say we find a $25,000 car and go to the bank for a loan. The bank approves the loan but wants something in return for loaning us the money - interest. In this instance, interest is a fee the bank charges us for borrowing money, and the principal is the amount we borrowed, $25,000.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account