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Stock market games give students real-world finance skills, and possibly a new laptop

Seventh grade students participate in Personal Finance Lab challenges to prepare them for the real world.
Haley O'Brien
Seventh grade students participate in Personal Finance Lab challenges to prepare them for the real world.

Students have a hypothetical $100,000 to buy and sell in the stock market as part of a financial literacy program sponsored by Mauch Chunk Trust Company in Carbon County. And there is a new laptop at stake for the winning investor.

The program is geared to educate middle and high school students in Carbon County and Tamaqua Area School Districts about personal budgeting and investing challenges.

Students at Weatherly Area Middle School say they check the market daily with live data from the American, NASDAQ and New York exchanges.

Seventh-grader Derek Moyer explains how it works.

“Basically, I would just look at how it was going. And then I’m like, well that looks like it’s gonna go up, so I’m like oh I’ll just invest in it, and then boom it works.”

Maddie Heister, an eighth-grader, noticed how trends affect the market.

“I invested in Costco stocks since the return rate was great. Less people were doing online shopping during that time for some reason, so I decided to invest in that,” she said. “But now, more online shopping has become more trending due to it being winter, so my stocks are low.”

“I remember at the time the adult happy meal at McDonald’s and the Grimace Shake came out,” Moyer said. “It made me like a bunch of money.”

The students are well aware that the stock market is risky.

“Sometimes it goes down and you might want to like sell them,” Seventh-grader Brandon Antolick said. “But then sometimes after you sell them… the stocks go up, so you sometimes don’t want to sell them.”

The students work on the Personal Finance Lab at home and during study periods. Dr. Katie Leach, Weatherly Area Middle School teacher, oversees the games, but she says this is an independent learning experience.

“They each have the knowledge of the world in their hands with that laptop,” she said. “My seventh graders are in Civics, so we’re going to be talking the rest of the year about economics and how important it is to our nation to keep our economy strong, so this will tie in perfectly with that.”

The stock market challenge will wrap up in April. The student with the most money in the bank will win a Samsung Chromebook.

The budgeting game lasts for 18 months and teaches participants how to manage bills, credit cards and other expenses.

“It gives you real-life scenarios, and it gives you a job that pays you every Friday,” Moyer said. “You have to pay rent, all of these bills... and you have to make sure you have an emergency fund.”

The site calculates each student’s credit score and quality of life.

“You can change your rent and all the different bills to be cheaper or more expensive. But the cheaper you go, the less quality of the items you get and the lower your quality of life score goes,” Antolick said.

The budgeting game continues through May.

Mauch Chunk Trust Company offers free online financial literacy programs for adults, too. Several interactive courses focus on budgeting, building credit, debt management and digital banking.

Haley joined the WVIA news team in 2023 as a reporter and host. She grew up in Scranton and studied Broadcast Journalism at Marywood University. Haley has experience reporting in Northeast Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. She enjoys reporting on Pennsylvania history and culture, and video storytelling.

You can email Haley at haleyobrien@wvia.org