NEW! Virtual Version of the Bean Game (and Extension Activity too)

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Mar 31, 2020
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Budgeting, Activity, Activities, Teaching Remotely

Note: For more activities and tips that you can use while you are teaching remotely, be sure to check out the Teaching Remotely section of the Teacher Toolkit

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The Bean Game stands out as a definite teacher and student favorite. It has a simple set-up, it's student-centered and applies core budgeting principles such as wants vs. needs and adjusting for financial hardships. Knowing that many of you are now teaching remotely, we developed a Bean Game virtual map where students make their choices on the map with numbers instead of beans. At the top right corner of the map, students will see their current spending amount. If it surpasses 20, the cell will change to red indicating that they are over the budget and need to reallocate their funds.

This game takes on even more relevance in light of the financial adjustments that many families are making now during a global pandemic. 

To take the game a step further, Jane Viau, an educator from New York City, extended this activity by developing additional "Life Happens" scenarios and events where students select strips of paper during the game. To do this virtually, you might call on one student at a time and have them select a number from 1 to 12. You could then read the event that corresponds to that number from the list below. 

Here are the events and their impact:

(You can also access the Google Doc with the events if you want to cut into slips of paper.)

  • #1: You broke your leg. If you have health insurance, you don’t need to do anything.  If you don't have health insurance, take off 3 beans.
  • #2: You just got a 2-bean raise!  Decide where it should be spent.
  • #3: The real estate market is booming and landlords have raised rents this year. If you're living with relatives, do nothing. If you're sharing an apartment with roommates or live alone, take off 2 beans.
  • #4: Your cable bill has increased. If you don't have cable, do nothing. If you have cable, you must move one of your beans to cable from another spot.
  • #5: Your car needs new tires.  If you don't have a car, do nothing. If you have a car, take off 2 beans.
  • #6: Your best friend is getting married and has asked you to be in the wedding party.  Move 3 beans to the last category under "Gifts" from another spending category.
  • #7: Your winter coat has ripped and cannot be repaired. You must replace it. Take off 1 bean.
  • #8: Your microwave broke and you need to replace it. Take off 1 bean.
  • #9: An air conditioner leak from your upstairs neighbor destroyed your computer. If you have renters insurance, do nothing. If you don't have renters insurance, take off 2 beans.
  • #10: The stove in your apartment has broken and the landlord informed you that it will take a month to replace it. You will need to utilize the middle section in the Food category [3 beans] since you are unable to cook any hot meals at home; make any necessary adjustments in your bean allocation.
  • #11: Your friends are taking part in a summer share in a beach house this summer and asked you to join them. If you decide to do this, you must allocate 3 beans to the last section in the Recreation category.  If you decide to pass on this opportunity, do nothing (but know that you'll miss all the fun and inside jokes.)
  • #12: The mattress got ruined and must be replaced. Take off 1 bean.

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Thanks to Lynne Tierney for this teacher tip on how to set up for asynchronous learning:

If you need to make the wild cards asynchronously viable, you could try this tool:  https://wheeldecide.com/.   I haven't tried it yet, but some friends have been swearing by it.  I'm going to try to put the wild cards in the wheel and tell the kids to spin it at certain times in the game.  

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Looking for more Budgeting activities? Check out the Budgeting Unit Page

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.