As a parent of four children in elementary school and as a Senior Investment Advisor, I think the Ontario government’s decision to revamp the mathematics curriculum in grades one through eight and introduce a realistic and relevant approach to financial literacy is great – and hugely important.

A little background: In September 2020, for the first time, elementary school students across Ontario will have a math curriculum that includes computer programming and financial literacy – two skills Premier Doug Ford has described as critical to succeed in today’s digital world and workforce. In broad strokes, the new curriculum will help students build an understanding of the value of money, how interest works and how to budget with the ultimate goal of helping them use it wisely now and when they’re adults.1

This is the first update to the math curriculum since 2005 and it has come at the right time. Statistics Canada released its latest report on the state of household debt in Canada and the picture isn’t great. Canadians now owe $2.33B in mortgage, consumer credit and loans pushing the household debt ratio to 176.9%. This means for every dollar of disposable income, Canadians owe $1.77 in credit market debt.2 That’s approaching the $1.78 record high we hit in 2017.

Growing up, we used to talk about kids being book smart or street smart and ideally you were both. This new curriculum is bringing street smart into the classroom. The value of a dollar, how to budget, the concepts of credit and debit, the impact of interest rates, how credit works – these are all important to being able to manage and use your money well. The Premier has talked about how the curriculum will try to do a better job of connecting math and money to practical examples kids will understand from their everyday lives. Good. Being able to understand financial concepts is empowering. If you can grow up with, build on and bring that knowledge into adulthood, it’s that much more impactful.

My level of debt coming out of university was huge because of student loans and credit card spending. When it came to my credit card, I paid the minimum amount each month not thinking about the interest I was being charged because I wasn’t paying off the full amount. It took years for me to pay off that debt. During all that time the credit card company was getting richer because as a teenager I didn’t appreciate how interest works especially when it comes to credit card debt.

These are life lessons. I talk to adults today in their forties and fifties who still don’t understand the concept of interest rates. This is a problem because interest rates affect every aspect of an economy: the value of a currency, the ability to buy a home, to borrow money, to generate income. The sooner someone can learn this, the better.

I’m not sure why this focus on embedding financial literacy into the curriculum for grades one to eight is happening now, but I’m glad it is. The next step is to extend it into the high school math curriculum. Understanding how finances work allows you to make better decisions about how you use your money and build your wealth. Maybe more important, this knowledge also helps make you a more informed, engaged citizen and voter, one who understands fiscal policy and how it will impact the economy and society.

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My approach to investing is straightforward. I study the markets, global economies and what’s happening within industries to be in a position to best help my clients find good quality investments that will help them meet their goals. I build custom portfolios for each client. I welcome you to call me at 416-332-3863 or email me at allan@allansmall.com.


    1. Ontario Introduces New Math Curriculum for Elementary Students, Ontario Newsroom
    2. Household debt ratio rises to 176.9%, Statistics Canada says, CBC