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Q&A

What is Real Life Financial Mathematics (RLFM)?
Real Life Financial Mathematics (RLFM) is a Texas approved, one-year blended online high school advanced math course. The CTE FIN MATH funded course integrates personal financial education, career discovery, postsecondary education funding and selection and reality-based math with five brain development skills – critical thinking, problem solving, team collaboration, communications and project based learning.

RLFM uses a new instructional methodology of online learning blended with teacher guided questions, videos, research, student presentations, capstone experiential game and a 6-E process. The course is outcome driven with all students expected to pass the rigorous exam, attend PSE, acquire scholarships, and graduate career and college ready. RLFM is a math-CTE hybrid course, providing   35% bonus funding to school districts offering this dynamic course. The course begins Sept 2017.

What are the prerequisites for RLFM?
The only prerequisite is Algebra I.

What are the credits?
The student receives one advanced math credit for the one year course. The math credit may be a third or fourth year credit since all students must also take geometry to graduate. Please see PDF document, page two:

§130.180. Financial Mathematics (One Credit), Adopted 2015. (a) General requirements. This course is recommended for students in Grades 10-12. Prerequisite: Algebra I. This course satisfies a high school mathematics graduation requirement. Students shall be awarded one credit for successful completion of this course.

According to TEA staff member Amie Williams, the fact that this course satisfies a math graduation requirement indicated that this can be a third or a fourth math credit. Configuration of the course order is important.  The following course orders are recommended:
A.  Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II, Real Life Financial Math – for the strong math student who does not need pre-calculus for college.
B.  Algebra I, Real Life Financial Math, Geometry, Algebra II – for the student who could benefit from developing critical thinking, problem solving and a personal career, life and education plan.
C.  Algebra I, Geometry, Algebraic Reasoning, Real Life Financial Math – for the student uncertain about the need for postsecondary education who needs to understand the impact of life choices being made.
D.  Algebra I, Geometry, Real Life Financial Math, Algebraic Reasoning – for the student uncertain about the ability to master Algebra II.

Once the student gains problem solving skills in RLFM, he should be prepared for Algebra II. It could be taken concurrently with Algebraic Reasoning or Geometry so the student graduates college ready.  Real Life Financial Math is not a substitute for Algebra II.  We want RLFM to be offered early, so students pursuing any postsecondary education will realize the importance and cost savings of taking Algebra II while in high school. School districts can also refer to the below link to view side by side comparison for graduation requirements and what that means. Click here to download the document.

Why did RLFM receive 71% of the TEKS and not 100% TEKS?
RLFM complies with 100% of the TEKS, 100% ELPS and meets accessibility standards. So why did RLFM only receive official credit for 70% of the TEKS?

We make no excuses, except ignorance of the rules of the game.  When we were asked to review the initial proposed TEKS for the course, we recommended that the SBOE add 70 more TEKS. We made this recommendation because we believed a one year course should address personal financial education, not personal financial literacy.  With the addition of the 70 TEKS, which were approved by the SBOE, the TEK count was 102 TEKS with 358 Breakouts.

We read in Proc 2017 that we MUST meet 50% of the TEKS, and must meet 70% of the TEKS we state we would meet.  This being our first time through a TEK review, we played it safe and stated we would achieve 71% of the TEKS, because 71% of 70% is 50%.  We also read that if we stated we met 100% of the TEKS and then only achieved 69%, our course would fail the TEK review and we would not be an approved course.

When we attended the TEK review session, we were advised that we met 71%.  We asked about the remaining TEKS and were told that the reviewers were not to proceed beyond the 71% since we stated we met only 71%. Although we met more TEKS, we are credited with 71%.

We also learned at the review that had we said 100% and missed any, the reviewers would have asked us for additional documentation to support the TEK.  This was not clear to us or we would have stated 100%.

This explains why RLFM officially has only 71% of the TEKS.

We hope our mistake won’t impact your decision to offer RLFM to your students. We are happy to provide you with a document showing the 100% TEK alignment.  RLFM is the only TEA approved financial math course and it  meets all accessibility standards, which is important if your district receives any federal funding. Should you have any questions about the substance of the course, please contact  the publisher Lorraine Decker at Lorraine@DeckerUSA.com.

What is the difference between personal financial literacy and personal financial education?
In short, depth of understanding.  Think of the difference between a literate person and an educated person. The later knows how to think about the topic, ask questions, and understand the answers and non-answers.  The former knows an answer.  RLFM was designed to support financial education.

RLFM is a math course but we understand it does not have traditional math problems and worksheets. Please explain?
RLFM is  an advanced math course focused on critical thinking and problem solving in real life.  Since financial literacy math problems are integrated in K-8 math, we were advised to create a course to build higher order thinking skills and not repeat earlier learned math.

Math is embedded in all financial decisions. For example, in unit one students are given a blank sheet and paper and asked to create a budget for a spring break in Disneyland or Disney World. They then compare their budget with team members to discover missing expenses and variation in expense. The students they gross up their budget to calculate how much they must earn to net the funds for the vacation. Finally they must talk about why people don’t create budgets for their vacations and what can go wrong because of this lack of financial discipline?

This is a real life problem. Disney doesn’t send vacationeers worksheets to plan or correct mistakes in a budget. Students learn that all financial decisions require math and the instructors help the students realize that the problems they are solving do not have one correct answer. There are many variables, and as in game theory, you make one decision there is a cause and effect result.

What is the length of the course?
The course in one year. Most schools are allocating 1/2 credit for each semester.

Who should take RLFM and why?
All students in grades 10 to 12 should be considered for the course, if they meet the Algebra I prerequisite. All students can benefit from this information. Even financial professionals who have helped edit the course have stated that they too learned from RLFM.

Other considerations – student maturity, ready to face real life and take responsibility for their future.

RLFM is an excellent option for sophomores and juniors who intend to acquire postsecondary education,and need guidance on how to fund that major investment. All students will learn the importance of Algebra II, required by most postsecondary education institutions.

Who can teach RLFM? – §231.395. Financial Mathematics, Grades 9-12?
Any of the following certificate instructors are qualified to teach Financial Mathematics, Grades 9-12:
(1)  Any business or office education certificate.
(2)  Business and Finance or Business Education: Grades 6-12
(3)  Master Mathematics Teacher (Grades 8-12).
(4)  Mathematics: Grades 7 or 8-12.
(5)  Physical Science/Physics/Engineering: Grades 6-12.
(6)  Secondary Mathematics (Grades 6-12)

CTE certification is NOT required.

Who should teach RLFM?
A certified teacher who is passionate about personal financial education AND wants to help students develop real life thinking skills to make a difference in their community. They should be excited about how the course is designed and that they will not be lecturing, but listening and not answering questions, but asking questions.

What is the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) Code for Financial Math?
PEIMS Code for Financial Math is 13018000, the course abbreviation is FINMATH.

Can you explain CTE Funding?
As a CTE course, districts receive 35% per student additional funding for financial math. This funding can be used for instructional materials.

RLFM is the only TEA approved financial math course. Why should we consider another course?
Most districts who are developing their own course do not fully understand the time, effort and expertise this will require.

Financial, career, and postsecondary education planning are both technical topics and psychological topics, hence the field of behavioral economics. An instructor may love this field, but normally lacks the professional knowledge and practice experience.  Consider this, Decker & Associates has more than 40 years experience in financial education, conducting workshops and counseling thousands of individuals. This core knowledge, backed with a 1,200 student pilot Game of Real Life from 2006 to 2013, is the foundation for the development of RLFM.

We believe it is unreasonable to expect a teacher, with a passion for personal financial education, to author a course and unethical, and illegal, to have the teacher copy material from textbooks and the internet.

The challenge – this financial math course must meet 100% of 102 TEKS, 300+ breakdowns, 100% ELPS, and meet accessibility standards for students with special needs. For example, if you plan to download material from the internet, you have both copyright and accessibility standards to meet. How easy or expensive will it be to have written materials translated into braille and have videos close captioned and material audio voice over? This takes more than just a passion for personal finance.  And if you fail, your district risks loss of national funding. Much is at stake.

RLFM is not perfect. But it is based on decades of experience and solid outcomes. We look forward to working with districts to make it more perfect.

Finally, RLFM online course design does not expect the instructor to be an expert in all aspects of the subject matter. Instructor take the pre-course exams and rarely do they exceed 50%. We know the information RLFM instructors must have to be confident, competent instructors. As a CTE or Math Director or Superintendent, do you know what your instructor knows? You are responsible for the competency of your educators. If uncertain, ask them to take our pre-course exam? See if the can pass.

Our district lacks computers for the students. Are there other options?

First option is that students can access their licenses on their cell phones if they have internet access.  RLFM is in the cloud, requiring little memory.

If the instructor has internet access, computer, projector, speakers and screen, course material can be shared with the students.  The publisher offers a special, instructor only purchase option for classroom license at $655 / instructor.

RLFM is a math credit course.  How rigorous is the math?
RLFM is a financial math course. It is not an extension of algebra, geometry, or calculus.  It is about reality-based math, critical thinking, and financial logic. It is designed to help students make important decisions today and in the future.

RLFM has a unique instructional methodology designed to support brain development? Why not use modeled behavior?

Before the turn of the 21 century, scientists thought the brain was fully developed by age 5 or 6. Recently neurologists learned that the prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive function cause and effect thinking, didn’t start development until age 15-16.  Modeled behavior, used in all education, but especially math, where an instructor introduces a concept, works a problem, then students work a problem, then students work lots of problems, does not develop critical thinking. Our approach requires students to think and develop their own strategies for solving problems, and then they apply strategies in routine and unique situations. This is the very essence of mathematical logic.

RLFM implements the math process through a different form of math instruction, and hopefully, you will find it much more effective.  Students approach math from a problem-solving focus – the 5W&H. They identify (sometimes subconsciously) what they know and what they don’t know. They then often start with a blank piece of paper, with a project oriented focus and construct a solution.  Students work in teams so all can offer insight, identify mistakes, and modify the results of the collective work.

Subject matter is presented through online materials, videos, worksheets and the instructor studies each student’s progress and poses questions to require the students to research and discover answers – just like in real life.

RLFM reflects real life. In real life you most often start with a blank piece of paper, or an Excel form and then must think through what is required. You may then share your answers with others to gain a broader perspective and uncover your flawed thinking, and then test the results in reality.

RLFM is also structured to enhance the long-term retention of financial knowledge.  The delivery system is based on Sir Kenneth Robinson and Dr. Sugata Mitra’s project oriented, critical thinking, team building, reflected in Robinson & Mitra’s talks on education. Also integrated in the course are exercises on growth mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck and recognition of grit and perseverance of Dr. Angela Duckworth.

Why is RLFM being offered? What is its intended audience, critical attributes, and distinguishing features?
With the housing mortgage crisis of 2008, the publishers reflected that for almost four decades financial literacy classes had been taught in high schools across America, and yet, almost 10 million families experienced foreclosure. How was this possible?  PFL courses taught vocabulary, budget worksheets, interest rates, the process of borrowing money, and theoretical planning.  Students may have learned these modeled concepts to pass a test, but they did not learn how to think and analyze these concepts. 

What do students achieve with RLFM?
Students learn to critically think and problem solve. RLFM provides a foundation for students to develop a ten-year life plan for academics, career, financial, and personal goals. Each student’s plan includes selection of high school classes, including AP and dual credit, identifying and acquiring resources for paying for college, selecting majors, budgeting, preparation of income taxes, purchase of car, renting apartment or dorm, purchase of first home, purchase of insurance, prepare resumes, job interviews and saving for emergencies, financial independence, and retirement. Students also can earn micro scholarships, track the opportunity costs and how much they have saved as a result of mastering the information in RLFM. Often, the savings exceeds $50,000.

Additionally, because of the rich content and higher expectations, students increase their GPAs, take AP classes and receive more scholarships than students who have not taken RLFM’s foundation course – Game of Real Life. Another expectation, which has not been researched, is higher SAT / ACT scores due to the required writing, presentations, critical thinking.  As districts move from standardized testing to using the SAT/ACT as a standard of career and college readiness, this expected result will become more important.

What is the cost?
Because the course material requires annual updating, the annual license for the course is $35 per student and $155 for teacher.  For schools without individual computers per student, a teacher only license can be obtained for $655 / year, designed to accommodate 50 students.

How is the course designed?
RLFM course is designed using the educational 6-E MODEL:

ENGAGE – As students walk into the classroom, Do First videos focus student attention on the lesson. Do First introduces the topic for the lesson and allows students to step into the future and think about the home, car, job, benefits they would like to have. Every Do First exercise is designed to stimulate critical thinking or problem solving.

ESSENTIALS – TEKs and ELPS are presented as SWBAT – Students Will Be Able To.  These clearly state what the student must master in each lesson. Vocabulary videos reinforce the course content and develop new vocabulary and second language knowledge. These support critical thinking and ELPS.

EXPLORELESSONs have two components for learning success. Instructors bring personal real life experiences, relevant to the lesson. Subject matter content, with expert videos provide students consistent, objective, challenging, TEK directed, in depth professional content.

EXPAND – Students work in TEAMS and as PARTNERS to answer higher-order thinking questions, solve problems, and make classroom presentations. It is in this section that students apply critical thinking and brain development skills.

ENRICH – Students complete reflection exercises, create a 10-year LIFE PLAN, CAREER MATRIX, VISION ESSAY and COMMUNITY-BASED PROJECT, working with volunteers, to calibrate their thoughts to reality. In this section students reflect on cause and effect thinking skills mastered.

EXAMINE – Students take an exit quiz at the end of each lesson.  The quiz is designed to tell the students if they have mastered the TEKS. Students focus, not on passing, but on what questions they failed to answer correctly. These questions / concepts could cost them money in the future.

Can you provide more information on the expected outcomes?
The basic objective is to prepare student to be self-sustaining members of the knowledge economy of the 21st century.  At the very least we expect all students to pass the course and graduate career and college ready.

The Game of Real Life, the foundation course for RLFM, started as a traditional, instructor lead course taught by highly motivated volunteers, and it concluded with an experiential capstone game. The course was piloted from 2006 – 2012, and offered in several formats – Saturdays, summers and school year – with underserved tenth grade students.  Twelve hundred Houston area students have graduated from the Game of Real Life. As the course evolved, lecturing was replaced with listening and answering questions was replaced with asking questions, using a Socratic system.

In longitudinal research, conducted from 2007 to 2014, of the first 358 Game graduates from Title I schools, 100% completed high school, 98% entered college and 91.7% graduated from college. During these years, we conducted research and implemented best practices to engage students in the classroom and motivate them to accept responsibility for their future.

This project earned the author Lorraine Decker the FDIC Chairman’s award for Innovation in Financial Education and the 2012 ENCORE Purpose Prize Award for $100,000.  Because of the outcomes, a decision was made to develop RLFM for Texas high school students.

Today, RLFM is offered as a blended online course. Because the authors do not expect districts to hire certified financial planners, with professional experience in tax preparation, career and college funding/planning, the online content, with video scribes, subject matter expert videos and worksheets, offer professional information. The teacher, with practical knowledge of the subject matter and a strong desire to motivate students for socio-economic change, guides the students through the teamwork, project learning, and higher order thinking questions.

Can we get a printed version of RLFM?
RLFM is a blended online course. We do not provide hard copies. Hard copies are absolutely not needed. Before each component of the course, where deemed necessary by the author, are instructor TIPs. The instructor needs to press “Previous” to access this content. Destroying tress or clinging to old instructional methodology is not required.

What are the system requirements for using fma.instructure? What are the basic computer specifications for RLFM? Which browsers does RLFM support? Please click the links for answers.

Is RLFM approved for math credit by NCAA?
Not yet. We are working on it. We encourage you to ask your athletic students to consider the big picture. 60% of NBA and 75% of NFL athletes are bankrupt five years after they leave the sport. Which skills were lacking? How about critical thinking, problem solving, personal finance, career planning and postsecondary education knowledge about how the real game of life is played.  It is not played only on the court or field. Give them the benefit of your wisdom and persuade them to enroll in RLFM.