Stock Market Math

I’ve had several requests to elaborate on a project I’ve started with my Grade 8’s using the stock market to investigate the reality of integers.  Here is that project laid out with details and timelines.

To begin with…..I had my students access a website and sign up for a free account.  They will not be spammed and the website provides an accurate stock market simulation that allows students to buy and trade stocks with “seed” money of $10,000.

At first I just had them pick stocks and try to spend as much of their $10,000 as possible.  They had some very interesting conversations revolving around what they should buy.  The questions that came up were:

1.  Is it better to invest in lots of stocks and just buy a few of each or buy lots of stocks in few companies (diversification)?

2.  How do you know which companies will do well?

3.  When is it a good idea to buy?  When is it a good idea to sell?

4.  I just bought a stock and I’m already up $5.00, how did that happen?  Hey wait a second….now I’m DOWN $2.00!!!  How did THAT happen?

Next they tracked the progress of their various stocks.  It wasn’t until they got used to thinking of red as negatives that I moved forward.

Teaching moments:

Watching the stocks move up and down is helpful for introducing the concept of adding integers together or even simply realizing the different between a stock being up (+$1.25) and being down (-$2.50) as a difference of $3.75.

And as they track their stocks over a couple of days they can watch changes.  If the stock was up $1.75, then down $2.25, then down $1.10, then up $.50 where does it end up?  Is it worth more or less then when you bought it?  By how much?

And then there is multiplication.  If you stock gained $2.20 today and you own 50 shares, how much money did you make off that stock?  If it lost $2.25, how much did you lose?

To be fair, the website will keep track of all of this information so it’s easy to find.  It will tell you what the change is for each individual stock.  I used this to have the kids explain to me what was going on with their stocks….

For example…..

“I have earned $22.50 today in my portfolio.  This is because my 10 shares of Apple were up $$5.10 each (which is a profit of $51.00), but my 10 shares of NetFlix were down $2.85 (a loss of $28.50).  This means my portfolio is still making money today.” (**this is not based on the above photo)

So there is some metacognition involved here as students explain why their portfolio has made of lost money for the day based on the results of the stocks.

The students eagerly check their stock portfolio’s each morning to see how they are doing.  They want to know if they are up money and by how much.  They trade stocks throughout the day when they have access to a computer.  And they are fully aware of when the bell rings at the end of the day in order to close the markets.

They’ve been asking great questions and there is great stuff on the website for educators, including lesson ideas.

I think anything where you can bring a real life simulation into your math class is not only helpful for that “When will I ever use this?” question, but it engages them in something more meaningful and real.  It gives them something to sink their teeth into!

If you choose to use this, good luck and let me know how it goes!




About Cherra-Lynne Olthof

I've been a middle school teacher for my entire career (which began in 2001). Like my students, I too am a life long learner. My goals include helping my students to achieve their goals, support them in their learning, and to encourage them to think "beyond the grade".
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2 Responses to Stock Market Math

  1. says:

    Hi Cherra,
    I was looking for something just like this to do with my Grade 8 students to help solidify their knowledge of integers. I came across your writeup and was intrigued, and some research into WeSeed got me even more interested!

    I had them sign up and they purchased their stocks, and are now keeping a log of how their stocks are doing. I have linked it to mathematics by having them create the right equations to help them confirm their financial “success” (i.e. current value = # shares * price per share). Integers comes into play as losses are negative; they can utilize all operations. Thank you so much for the idea! They really seemed to love it (although the first half hour was just questions about the stock market and who bought what stock).
    Thanks again!

    • Yes that first day is always a write off when they are first “playing around” with it. Haha. I find value in their playing though so I let it slide for the first period and get down to task in the next one.

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