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This online resource contains the following pages: Home | Knowing | Growing | Showing

Knowing stage - What is money?

Knowing Web Page ImageIn the Knowing (introductory) stage, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students engage with the basics of money and develop a foundational understanding of consumer and financial literacy.

This understanding includes:

  • what money is
  • the different forms of money
  • how to calculate change
  • how to work out its value
  • what it is used for
  • where it comes from.

Overview (includes vocabulary)

In the Knowing stage, students learn about the following key concepts:

  • Unit 1: Understanding money - This unit encourages students to explore all aspects of money, its purpose, value and history. Students will learn to order coins, count in stages and realise that money can come in different forms.
  • Unit 2: Classroom money - Students use what they learnt about money in the Understanding unit and apply it in a simple classroom economy. Here they learn about saving and spending, and how money can bring both good for the community as well as some tensions.
  • Unit 3: Spending money - Students will continue to build on learning to focus on exchange of money for goods and services in a classroom shop. They learn about value for money and what that means for them. They explore how their consumer choices may be influenced. They also relate the classroom shop to local businesses in the community.
  • Unit 4: Your market - Students are introduced to the idea of enterprise and begin planning an enterprising activity based on community needs. They establish a small scale market and include the community. Students have opportunities to practice money exchanges and use money in a practical setting and then consider how they can give back to the community

Video: The 'Knowing' stage

This video from the resource shows teachers discussing the Knowing Stage as the foundation of knowing what money is about.


In undertaking activities in the Knowing stage, students may need to develop an understanding of the following terminology and concepts.

  • Worth, value, benefit, wellbeing
  • Economy, enterprise, business, exchange, barter, trade, currency
  • Goods, services, products
  • Funds, funding
  • Essential
  • Volunteer, employment
  • Influence, advertisement
  • Unit price, discount, balance
  • Budget

Learning outcomes (includes long-term understandings)

By the end of this stage students will:

  • know and recognise Australian coins and notes and gain an understanding of how the money system operates
  • be able to identify the difference between a want and a need
  • be able to confidently and accurately handle money including counting and giving change
  • develop an understanding of how money is used to access goods and services.

Long-term understandings

  • Money is a finite resource, so need to keep track of spending
  • Effective use of money can bring about long-term wellbeing for individuals groups and communities
  • Accessing money electronically makes it harder to keep track of your money
  • Values and experiences influence decisions on needs and wants and how money is used

Educator Guide (includes suggested activities & assessment rubric)

The Educator Guide for the Knowing stage contains:

  • Suggested activities - aligned to the curriculum and link the learning outcomes and focus questions to real-life scenarios. Teachers can select and adapt activities to suit their cohort.
  • Assessment rubrics - aligned to the Australian Curriculum content descriptions together with suggestions for assessment are provided. Assessment material is intended as a guide and available for download to be modified and adapted to suit teachers' needs.
  • Assessment task template - keep track of the activities you work through with your students.
  • Online resource content - print version of all the content within this online resource.

Download the pdf or word version of the Educator Guide to use in combination with this online resource below:

Community and cultural considerations (includes guiding ideas)

The following seven guiding ideas provide support to teach consumer and financial literacy through the Knowing stage in a way that is meaningful and empowering for students. These ideas support the incorporation of community and cultural considerations in a learning context.

Guiding ideas



Connect with community & cultural identity

History shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have engaged in trade, exchange and bartering for tens of thousands of years. Teachers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students can draw upon these practices to affirm the importance of trade and resource exchange.



Build on your students' real-life experiences

Capitalise on the experiences of students as they arise. Having student share their stories can help everyone develop deeper understandings of money, its purpose and how it works in the community.



Gather information about prior experiences with money

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students' prior experiences with, and understanding of, money will vary. They will see money being used in their homes and communities in varying ways; including money being spent at shops, being shared amongst family, or being exchanged for services (such as paying for a taxi, ferry, bus or other form of transportation).

In more geographically remote areas however, students may not have access to a wide range of experiences in directly seeing money in operation due to a lack of retail outlets, banks, public transportation, and other services that larger centres may take for granted.



Recognise the power of story

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies are founded on narrative-based cultures. The power of story has shaped lore, identity, law and connection to country. In contemporary teaching, story-telling can be used as a powerful learning tool to share experiences, explore students' insights and differing perspectives, find meaning, and shape ethics and morals.



Reinforce cultural values of sharing

In some communities, the connection between money and culture may not be immediately apparent and may be seen as incongruent and inconsistent with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values. However, by working from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander values-system point of view, all teachers and learners consider other perspectives about how money is used.

Through your teaching, you could help reinforce a cultural message that 'money can be used for sharing and caring'. This goes to the heart of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ethos of reciprocity, sharing and looking after each other.

By working from this perspective, students begin to appreciate that money can be a resource for community wellbeing and not just individual wealth.



Embrace diversity

Social and cultural diversity will exist among your students and care must be taken to avoid stereotyping. As with all students, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students will enter school with differing interests and varying degrees of prior knowledge and skills. They may also enter the school with varying degrees of cultural understanding and sense of identity, due to historical factors (such as the Stolen Generations). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students more often than not have shared cultural values and social experiences.

This often includes a common world view through their identity, a deep sense of obligation to family, and similar upbringings in places of poverty and financial hardship. Use these realisations and understandings to facilitate learning experiences that resonate with your students.

Have students consider the diversity within families and roles in the family by drawing their family and sharing with others. Examine the cultural diversity within the class and share differences in food choices, music and language.



Celebrate achievement

Quality teaching in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contexts means adopting strengths-based approaches to teaching and learning. This means teachers will be continually building upon what students know, as opposed to highlighting what they do not know. Adopt a two way learning approach to your teaching whereby you share your knowledge and experiences about consumer and financial literacy while students share theirs with you and their peers.

Quality teaching in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander contexts also means that teachers will be positively reinforcing cultural identity.

Real-life scenario

Authentic context

This scenario has been developed to provide real-life context to frame the unit and learning opportunities, as well as generate discussion to develop an understanding of money and specific cultural aspects of money relevant to this stage.

Teachers are encouraged to adapt the scenario to suit the context, level and learning of their students.

Scenario1Tyrone has to catch a bus to see his Aunty Jackie who has been sick. His Mum has given him $5 for the bus to Aunty Jackie's place and to get back home.

"You make sure you go see Aunt, she's crook," his Mum says.

Waiting at the bus stop, Tyrone's cousin Aleesha asks him for money so she can buy some food and a drink. Aleesha hasn't eaten all day.

Tyrone has $5 in his pocket, but has $20 in his bank account which he has been saving for months to see his favourite football team play next weekend.

What should Tyrone do?

Note for teachers

Aspects students can consider:

  • money can take various forms: cash and electronic
  • students make choices and problem solve
  • tension of needs (family) versus wants (football)
  • cultural consideration - namely, obligation to family.

There isn't a right or wrong answer, but students need to justify why they have reached their decision. They need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the decision that they have reached.

Unit 1 - Understanding money (includes focus questions)

Key concepts

The key concepts covered in this unit are:

  • What is money?
  • History of money
  • How do people use money?
  • Different forms of money

This unit encourages students to explore all aspects of money:; its purpose, value and history. Student achievement from this unit will vary depending on the individual learner, but it is anticipated that students will be able to order coins, count in stages and realise that money comes in different forms while considering money in the past and what money means for them now.

To enable students to engage with the basics of money in real contexts and facilitate meaningful learning experiences a variety of learning experiences have been devised which include games and online exercises, a classroom economy the simulation of a shop and showcasing learning through planning and implementing a market or small enterprise.

The ideas and activities could be used exactly as described, or might provide a springboard for teaching and learning opportunities or ideas that inspire teachers to develop alternative activities that meet the specific needs of their students and curriculum requirements

Focus questions

Focus questions provide a guide to engage students in key concepts addressed in the unit and the learning intentions of this stage. Through guided questioning, teachers can establish student levels of knowledge and awareness of money.

Building understanding:
  • What is money?
  • Where does money come from?
  • How did people get what they needed before money?
  • What is trade and how was it used in the past?
  • Why do we need money now?
  • How do people get money?
  • How do people use money?
  • What forms can money take (cash in the hand and money in the clouds - electronic)?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience with money:
  • How did Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people get what they needed in the past (before money)?
  • How do Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people get what they want and need today?
Personal experience with money:
  • Are there examples in the broader school community where needs and wants are met without involving money (e.g. volunteering, community gardens, trading one good or service for another)?
  • How is money used in a family? At school?
  • What do we need to know/understand about money?

Unit 2 - Classroom money (includes focus questions & classroom economy)

Key concepts

The key concepts covered in this unit are:

  • Value for money
  • Goods and services
  • Establish a classroom economy

Students use what they learned about money in the Understanding Money unit and apply it in a simple classroom economy. Here, they learn about saving and spending and how money can bring good for the community as well as some tensions.

Focus questions

Focus questions are provided as a guide to assist teachers to engage students in key concepts addressed in the unit. Through guided questioning, teachers can establish student levels of knowledge and awareness of money.

Building understanding:
  • What do things cost?
  • Why might it be important to understand if something is value for money?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience with money:
  • What goods and services are essential in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities?
  • How might this be impacted by location - (remote, regional, urban)?
Personal experience with money:
  • What are essential costs to a family/community? (Consider housing, food, utilities, transport etc.)
  • What does it mean to spend less than you earn?
  • What are the consequences of not having enough money to pay for essentials?
  • What do people need to think about before spending money?
    • What is 'enough'?
    • What is a 'need'?

Classroom economy

The aim of the classroom economy is for students to apply the knowledge gained in the previous unit and practise using money in a variety of ways. This includes counting, spending, saving, exchanging, earning and gaining an understanding of the value of money.

After consultation and discussion with students (using the focus questions provided as prompts) teachers could consider which activities relating to a classroom economy would work best for their students.

Classroom economies can be implemented in many different ways. They can involve simple, basic use of money in the classroom as a reward and recognition system for being on task, completing work, displaying critical and creative thinking, demonstrating ethics, good behaviour and positive interactions with other students and teachers. More sophisticated models incorporate concepts of employment, wages, rent, electricity, food, and other associated money transactions which take place in a real world context.

It is suggested that when implementing a classroom economy students are given the opportunity to relate activities undertaken in their classroom economy to the real world economy operating in their community and beyond.

A variety of classroom economy ideas are presented in this unit for teachers to select and build upon. Teachers should develop a model for their classroom economy that meets the needs of their students. Ideas start simple and gradually become more complex. You may wish to consider introducing either an individual or a class savings goal. This provides the opportunity to explore saving, goal setting and planning for the long term.

Cultural perspective Underpinning this topic will be the notion of money for caring and sharing. From an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander standpoint the notion of reciprocal obligation could be built into this learning task by asking students to share earned points/classroom money throughout the unit. This ensures students experience an intrinsic sense of reward for demonstrating communal care and sharing of what they have earned.
Case study: Classroom economy

Singleton Primary School in WA created a classroom economy using a whole-school approach which features a rewards system that increases in complexity with each year level.

  • Good behaviour is rewarded with 'School Dollars', which can then be spent during 'transaction' or 'shopping' days. On these days students can use their School Dollars to purchase activities, such as wearing their hair-down for the day, 20 minutes of free-play etc.
  • In Kindergarten, each student has a banking book, in which each sheet has an image of 10 ten cent coins. Teachers instruct students to colour in a ten cent coin when they have demonstrated good behaviour. The students know that 10 ten cent coins equal a dollar and thus can tally their savings.
  • The year one and two class also uses a banking book, but it is formatted as a multiplication array to encourage students to do multiplication sums and skip-counting. When the students save one dollar they bank it with the teacher. This allows for role-play and discussions about depositing, saving, withdrawing and earning interest.
  • In the year two class students collect toy coins and when they have too many they also deposit it at the bank. This allows discussion around banks and their role in a society.
  • In year three students have a 'stamper card'. Once a row is complete they add up their savings and spend it during school shopping days.
  • In year four students also have a stamper card, but this is expanded to include a transactions book. They keep record of their transactions and calculate how much they have spent and saved over time.
  • In years five and six students are paid a daily wage for coming to school and completing work, and they are also fined for bad behaviour. They keep track of their earnings and transactions using a range of financial record keeping formats ranging from basic tally sheets to more complex records of deposit and withdrawal.

Unit 3 - Spending money (includes focus questions & classroom shop)

Key concepts

The key concepts covered in this unit are:

  • Needs and wants
  • What influences spending?
  • Understand local economy
  • Set up a classroom shop.

In a classroom shop students consider the concept of 'value for money' and what this means for them, while continuing to learn about the exchange of money for goods and services. They explore what influences their choices and relate the classroom shop to local businesses in the community.

Focus questions

Focus questions are provided as a guide to assist teachers to engage students in the key concepts to be explored through the creation and running of a classroom shop. Through guided questioning, teachers can establish student levels of knowledge and awareness of money.

Building understanding:
  • What is difference between a need and a want?
  • How do people determine what is a need or want?
  • How do values influence needs and wants?
  • How can we shop safely, ethically and responsibly online?
  • How do shops operate/ work?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experience with money:
  • How might needs and wants have changed in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over time (values, number of choices, location, etc.) Explore values from a number of viewpoints?
  • Who influences decisions about money in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities?
Personal experience with money:
  • How do the local businesses reflect the needs and wants of the community?
  • Are there gaps or an oversupply in the provision of goods and services in the community?
  • What information is required to know if something is value for money? What strategies can we use to get this information?
  • Why is it important to consider spending carefully (e.g. taking time and planning purchases)?

Classroom shop

Establishing a classroom shop or shopping mall builds upon and consolidates concepts and skills learnt in previous units.

Students explore needs and wants and value for money while planning and establishing their own classroom shop/s.

The concepts developed and covered in establishing a classroom shop can range from very simple ideas which enable students to develop an understanding of how shops work to more sophisticated concepts such as market competition, business expenses and profit. The elements of establishing an enterprise are covered in detail in the Showing stage of this resource.

Unit 4 - Your market (includes enterprise)

Key concepts

The key concepts covered in this unit are:

  • Exchange of money
  • Plan a market event
  • Engage community.

Students are introduced to the idea of enterprise and begin planning a money making activity that takes into account the local community and its needs and interests.

They use what they have learnt in previous units to plan and undertake a small scale market idea that will include the community. They practice money exchanges, and this may include using real money in a practical setting. They then consider how they can give back to the community.

The challenge is for students to seek a cause for improvement which could include something for people, groups, organisations or even the local environment. E.g. a local park might benefit from additional trees, park benches or a beautification plan.

The proceeds of the Market fund the 'need' with in the community allowing students to see a direct correlation between enterprise, raising funds and creating a change.

Students may:

  • Offer a product for sale (e.g. baked goods, craft items, sausage sizzle)
  • Manage an event or performance where there is a fee for entry (tickets for sale)

Planning a market

The students will now have the opportunity to devise, plan and conduct an activity that will make a profit and benefit the school and community. This activity could be to make and sell food, art, or any other item that the students feel people would buy. Or, it may include another type of product, service or transaction that is determined in consultation with the community

In order to help students identify how they can contribute or give back to the community, teachers could invite a community member to address the class and highlight an issue or social need.

Students could then explore the concept of social entrepreneurialism and justify their choices for the types of activities they include in the market.

Depending on the scale of the market and skills of the students this event could span several week or months.

What is a social entrepreneur?

A social entrepreneur is a person who pursues an innovative idea that has the potential to solve a community problem. These individuals take on business opportunities to create positive changes in society.

The main goal of a social entrepreneur is to be an agent of change and not to earn a profit. However, the success of their idea also requires good budgeting and thus a social entrepreneur must also understand money matters.

Establishing an enterprise

Through guided discussion, students reflect on the learnings from the guest speaker/s excursion and shopping activity and establish a list of considerations that will support an enterprise activity.

The list might include:

  • What do people need? What would people want to buy?
  • Who would support this event?
  • How would we advertise and get people to purchase our product/service?
  • Where would we hold our market?
  • When will the market be held?
  • What do we have to do to develop / make our product and sell it?

Entrepreneurial ideas could include:

  • The establishment of a school veggie garden and selling the produce to parents and teachers.
  • A pie drive or bake off, that ends with selling the products through the school/community market.

Curriculum links

The Knowing stage - Australian Curriculum mapping contains mapping to the:

  • Australian Curriculum Learning Areas.
  • Australian Curriculum General Capabilities.
  • National consumer and Financial Literacy Framework.

Note: The link above takes you back to the resource landing page on the Moneysmart website.

Additional resources

Below are some additional resources to support teachers delivering the Knowing stage:

ASIC's MoneySmart Teaching

Provides a range of resources for teachers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students including Milba Djunga's Classroom Economy Teacher Guide and video, units of work, digital activities and a case study to support teachers in supporting student learning in the Knowing stage.

Go to Teaching Resources page and filter by relevant age group and/or 'Focus: Indigenous'.

MoneyMob - Play and Learn

A community based program delivering financial literacy education with and for people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to help them positively manage their money.

Video Bark Painters (YouTube)

Yolngu artist David Malangi designer of the first one dollar note for decimal currency.

Make It Count

A program for educators working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander learners in mathematics education.

First Footprints

Four part documentary series that explores the first 50,000 years of life in Australia.

Money matters

A primary teacher's handbook for developing money concepts - hard copy resource with many activities to assist students in money recognition, counting coins, coin equivalence, integration and shopping, classroom economy. Paul Swan and Linda Marshall - RIC Publications Pty Ltd.

Money Money Money

An introduction to banking and money concepts in Australia for ages 10 plus.