Culturally Responsive Teaching with Stash101

5-10 minutes

What is culturally responsive teaching?

There are many ways to think about culturally responsive teaching.

“Culturally responsive teaching is defined as using the cultural characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as conduits for teaching them more effectively” (Gay, 2002, 106). And it’s also helpful to consider diverse lived experiences based on where people live; their age; their economic circumstances and history; and more. 

There are many things that create a culturally responsive classroom, and the New America Framework mentions 8 key competencies, including “collaborating with families and communities, promoting respect for student differences, modeling high expectations for all students, bringing real-world issues into the classroom, drawing on students’ culture to shape curriculum, and reflecting on one’s cultural lens (New America report, 2020).”

Why does it matter? 

“While educators cannot singlehandedly make schools less segregated and more equitable, they can ensure that students feel valued and affirmed in schools, in the curriculum, and in their interactions with peers (Muniz, 2020).”

“Because culture strongly influences the attitudes, values, and behaviors that students and teachers bring to the instructional process, it has to likewise be a major determinant of how the problem of underachievement is solved (Gay, 2002, 114).”

When teaching students about money, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Think contextually: Many “financial literacy programs are premised on the idea that poor choices, not circumstances, are the cause of individuals’ financial difficulty” (Munro, 2017)…therefore it is important that teachers address money management skills within the context of a system that disadvantages some from the start.
  • Remember that different cultures have different learning priorities: “Students of different economic contexts have different financial learning priorities, thus teachers should have prior understandings of their learners’ backgrounds in order to modify curriculum for meeting individual needs (Lucey, 2007, 488).”
  • Consider a community approach: “Financial education curricula must consider a community approach that involves parents, family, and community in the learning process. Such efforts could prompt family learning efforts, providing bases for constructive home dialogues (Lucey & Giannangelo, 2006, 281).” These researchers also “argue for cooperative learning processes as methods of challenging competitive environments.”
  • Create opportunities to tackle tough questions: “Classrooms should provide opportunities for discussions about these differences, prompt students to examine their b[i]ases, and explore their dispositions and behaviors (Lucey, 2007, 488).”

In a nutshell: Instead of focusing on money as something that must be amassed, present money as a tool that can significantly help students throughout their lives if they learn to understand, use, and manage it. 

Here are some steps you can take to make your Stash101 experience more culturally responsive.

*Note that this list is not comprehensive—think of it as a place to start. 

  • Build relationships during your Stash101 setup
    • Invite students to use their own cultures and experiences to drive the setup of your classroom economy. Questions to ask: 
      • What action items (bonuses) should we have?
        • Think about what students can and cannot control. For example, giving a bonus for attendance isn’t fair because sometimes it’s not the students’ fault that their parent/guardian dropped them off late. Provide bonuses to students within the realm of their control. 
      • What bills should we pay? 
        • Have students come up with bills for the class that are similar to the bills they know about from home. 
          • Ask students what it feels like to see bills and have to pay them. Does it make them excited to make money, or does it make them feel stressed? If so, why might that be? Talk about how they might alleviate or address their stress.
      • What jobs do you want to have in our classroom economy?
        • Start by finding out what jobs interest students, and encourage them to suggest jobs from their culture to incorporate in the classroom economy. Think beyond the typical doctor, teacher, lawyer roles and incorporate more community-based roles. For instance, you might have a Collaboration Captain who is in charge of ensuring consensus is met when you’re making group decisions; you might also have a Supply Manager, Assistants for various roles, and so on. Think about how students can utilize their collectivist mindsets to approach future career paths and interests.
      • What do you want to see in the marketplace? What interests you?
        • Think about experiences you can give students that will allow you to get to know them and build relationships. For example, include marketplace items that are a ticket to come to a lunch-bunch group or a pizza party so you can build relationships outside of your class time together. Also, think about students’ motivations, incentives, and rewards for learning—not just in individual terms, but in community terms as well.
  • Create a safe space to talk about—and have—difficult financial conversations, and involve the community
    • Develop rich examples from role models with the same race or ethnicities as your students. 
      • Use Stash101’s Financial Tip of the Day, which incorporates financial quotes and tips from individuals with diverse backgrounds. Also, check out the Foolproofme videos featuring students of multiple backgrounds discussing financial topics.
    • Make learning about money relatable to your students’ backgrounds by activating prior knowledge. Ask students questions like, “Do you talk about money in your household? Why or why not? What expenses does your family have? What does a conversation around money look, feel, and sound like in your household?” 
      • Be prepared for challenging conversations to emerge around debt, inheritance, government assistance, financial fears, bankruptcy, immigrant status, credit card use, etc. When these conversations come up, ask open-ended questions to learn more about what students think/feel about the situations they are experiencing—and make a conscious effort to set aside any preconceived ideas or biases you may bring to the table, as students may take cues from you. 
      • Reinforce that “wealth” doesn’t equal “success” or “good” in all cultures. Create a space where students can talk about their culture’s values and priorities. Ask students how their culture influences their attitudes toward money. 
      • Give students opportunities to interview their families to explore family members’ financial beliefs.
        • Consider asking, “How has your relationship with money changed over this past year?” Many immigrant families may have left a financially secure situation to come to the United States, and their financial situation may have completely changed. 
  • Think about making some essential shifts
    • Change the attitude from individual competition to community cooperation.
      • Maybe turn off the leaderboard or anonymize it.
      • Encourage students to do things to help other students—for example, maybe they can loan or grant other students money for marketplace or auction items when they have some money to spare. Or maybe they can give other students QR code cash to thank them for kindness, cooperation, helpfulness, etc. (Encourage them to catch other students saying or doing something good!)
    • Rethink group/individual work. Even though students have “individual accounts” on Stash101, be sure to create opportunities for students to make and spend money in groups. Many culturally diverse groups experience better outcomes from more communal learning environments, so create space for these types of learning opportunities in your classroom economy. 
      • Allow students to pool their money for different marketplace items and experiences. For example, rather than having each student pay for a ticket to the movies individually, allow groups of students to pool their money together to get a group of tickets to the movies. 
      • Allow for group deposits. 
    • Think about how you interact with your students.
      • Students from some cultures may be more comfortable with communal communication, meaning the “passive/receptive” style of learning may not work well for them. Allow for more of an active and participatory discourse rather than just looking for right or wrong answers.
        • Note that throughout the Stash101 curriculum, you will find more conversation-based questions than right/wrong questions to help start these types of interactions. 
    • Encourage your students to approach and manage money as a tool that can help give them things and experiences they want, but deemphasize any sort of direct connection between good/bad decisions and acquisition/loss of money, as this is oversimplified and often not fully representative of the big picture.
  • Call out inequities in our society 
    • Be courageous. Talk about how people of different backgrounds or races in our communities experience financial inequality. 
    • Ask questions like: 
      • What financial institutions are in your neighborhood? Why do you think they are there? 
        • (For example, predatory loan institutions are often located in predominantly low-income neighborhoods)
      • What do you notice about the jobs in your community and their pay? 
        • (Discuss inequities in pay by gender and race.)
      • Why do some qualified or overqualified people not get the jobs they apply for? 
        • (Talk about what it means to have connections and how it’s often who you know that’s important. Discuss how implicit biases—and what you look and sound like—may factor in.)

Explore your options

As mentioned earlier, this list of ideas is not comprehensive—but it will give you a place to start. There are many other techniques you can use to create a more culturally responsive classroom, and we encourage you to explore your options for making your classroom more inclusive.


Gay, Geneva. 

“Preparing for Culturally Responsive Teaching.” Central Washington University. Journal of Teacher Education, March 1, 2022.,%20Geneva%20Gay.pdf. 

Lucey, Thomas A. 

“The Art of Relating Moral Education to Financial Education: An Equity Imperative.” Social Studies Research and Practice 2, no. 3 (2007): 486–500.,%202007/Practice/2.3.15.pdf. 

Lucey, Thomas A., and Duane M. Giannangelo. 

“SHORT CHANGED: The Importance of Facilitating Equitable Financial Education in Urban Society.” Education and Urban Society 38, no. 3 (May 2006): 268–87. 

Muñiz, Jenny. 

Publication. Culturally Responsive Teaching: A Reflection Guide, September 23, 2020. 

Munro, Daniel.

April 30, 2017. “How Financial Literacy Programs Can Do More Harm Than Good.” Macleans, May 3, 2017.

“Teacher Competencies That Promote Culturally Responsive Teaching.” 

New America, September 2020. 


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Janessa Boulay

Written by

Janessa Boulay

Janessa Boulay is the Director of Education at Stash101. She taught elementary and middle school students in Colorado before becoming an entrepreneur by starting her own software company, PayGrade, in her classroom. In June 2020, PayGrade joined forces with Stash and became Stash101, a free financial literacy platform that educates 100,000+ students around the country. Janessa loves bringing quality financial education to educators, schools, and organizations by creating content for Stash101 and presenting at conferences and on webinars. She truly believes financial literacy can transform students’ lives and empower them to build a brighter future.