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Central Bank & the Money Supply Activities for High School

Instructor: Nora Jarvis

Nora has a Master's degree in teaching, and has taught a variety of elementary grades.

Where exactly do our dollar bills and coins come from? Help your high school students understand the institution behind the country and government's money supply by using these engaging activities to teach the central bank and money supply.

Teaching About the Central Bank and Money Supply

A central bank is an institution that is in charge of many different aspects of a country's finances. In the US, our central bank is the Federal Reserve System, often referred to as 'The Fed,' for short. The Fed issues our currency, makes decisions about how much currency to circulate, and manages interest rates. It is the backbone to the banking system in our country, covering any supply shortages from the commercial banks.

Teaching your students about economics can provide an excellent opportunity to connect real-world issues to their academic lessons. As your students learn about central banks and money supply, it will be helpful to give them real-world problems to solve and examine real-world documents to help them connect with the material. The following activities will help you get started.

What Should the Bank Do?

Materials:

  • Notecards with one of the following scenarios written on them, enough for each pair of students:
    • The US dollar is beginning to inflate in terms of world economics. Explain what the Fed should do to keep the currency stable and to slow growth.
    • The United States is facing a problem in which there is not enough money circulating because consumers aren't spending their money. What can the bank do to increase consumer spending and spur growth?
  • Coloring materials

Instructions:

  • Divide your students into pairs and have each pair randomly choose a notecard. Once they get their card, challenge your students to determine the best course of action for the Fed to take to solve the problem.
  • Tell your students to use the coloring materials to draw a step-by-step solution to the problem, showing how their suggestions will result in a change to the national economics.
  • Have each pair meet up with another pair who were assigned the same problem. They should discuss their solutions and note any areas that were different.
  • Debrief by having each group share the solution the other pair suggested.

Crisis vs. Crisis

Materials:

  • Newspaper articles explaining the housing crisis of the 2000s (which can be found in newspaper archives)
  • Newspaper articles explaining the savings and loans crisis of 1987 (which can be found in newspaper archives)
  • Blank copies of paper Venn diagrams

Instructions:

  • Explain to your students that throughout the history of the central banks, there have been times that the banks begin to falter and cause problems for consumers. They will be reading newspaper articles about two of the most recent crises and comparing the two.
  • Divide your students into pairs and pass out the newspaper articles. Depending on your students, you can tell them to either popcorn read the articles together, or to read silently and highlight important parts of the articles.
  • Pass out the Venn diagrams to your students and explain to them that they should compare and contrast the two crises. Ask the following questions:
  • What caused the crisis?
  • How was the crisis solved?
  • What changed came from the crisis?
  • Give your students ample time to work on their Venn diagrams and circulate to prompt their thinking as they work.

Modeling Inflation

Materials:

  • Play money, including dollars and cents (can be printed out or taken from a money-based board game)
  • Variety of classroom supplies, possibilities include:
    • Erasers
    • Pencils
    • Paperclips
    • Crayons
    • Markers

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