College Football Season and Mathematics

By Cindy Ivanac-Lillig

The start of every new college football season always holds so much promise. My undergrad alma mater, Boston College, is usually good but just not good enough to stick it out in the top ten for more than a couple of weeks — that’s in a good year. This week, the Wall Street Journal published a graph of college football teams, where the x-axis represents the strength of the team as measured by on-field performance and the y-axis represents a measure of ethical behavior (from embarrassing to admirable). It is really neat, albeit somewhat disappointing that BC is marked as highly admirable ethically and a weakling competitively. But, remember, anything is possible.

So, you are wondering what does this have to do with economics or economic education. Behind all the tongue and cheek analyses, there is an impressive amount of mathematics behind this graph that I think many students would find interesting. How about if we asked students to create the mathematical equation that would plot these teams on the graph? All of a sudden the concept of data analysis would seem like lunch conversation and scrutinizing data sources would seem necessary. I am not suggesting that sports statistics hold the answer to classroom mathematics, because first and foremost, these interests would skew male, but just that statistics and mathematical analyses can be applied to a lot of things that are interesting. Please post any and all ideas you might have for the community as to how to bring interesting math problems back to the classroom.

And for now, here’s to hoping that the equation they used to plot my alma mater is flawed. Go Eagles! And to support all my big and little fans at home, Go Irish!

Recent Financial Education Insights & Resources

By Cindy Ivanac-Lillig

The Council on Economic Education (CEE) just issued the results of their 2014 Survey of the States. This survey collects data on state-based K-12 financial literacy mandates and testing requirements. It is very interesting to see how the states compare to one another. However, even with this information, it remains very difficult to know if we are producing the desired outcomes. In other words, it is not clear what cocktail of mandates and tests, if any, will result in the behavior and attitude changes that our students need to effectively handle their future financial lives.

There was a promising finding in a recent U.S. Treasury-sponsored research project on young children and bank branches in schools. Check it out here. One of the most robust findings was regarding the attitude change among students. The student group that was exposed to the bank branch in school showed a marked improvement in their thoughts/attitudes towards how easy it was to save in a bank. This may seem simplistic, but in the long run, this minor change in attitude change could prove significant.

Increasing our students’ financial capabilities is hard work and not simply a function of knowledge transfer — which makes it an especially hard nut to crack in the modern test-filled classroom. The Treasury and its councils have done some great holistic work discussing the different facets of financial capability as opposed to just financial literacy that include choice architecture and consumer protection. It is not totally clear what the formula is for our students, and frankly for all of us, to become more financially capable, but there is interesting work underway. Here are a few additional resources to check out if you are interested in some of the academic work that is going on:

U.S. Treasury Financial Capability Research Presentation (2014)

Chicago Fed Economist discussing her research on the importance of math education

Harvard Business School: High School Curriculum and Financial Outcomes… (2014)

Chicago Fed’s Financial Literacy and The Effectiveness of Financial Education and Counseling: A Review of the Literature

For folks who live in the Chicago area or are simply interested in getting involved, IL Jump$tart is holding its inaugural Action Network for Financial Empowerment (ANFE) meeting at the Chicago Fed on July 25th. Check out their website for details.



A blog designed to act as a resource and sounding board for promoting economic education.