Investing in stocks can be educational

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After his day's work is completed, investor Trey Natili logs onto his computer to check his investments on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ stock markets.

"Stocks are more than buying and selling," he said. "You have to research and spend your money wisely or it could cost you a lot."

His partner, Ryan Leibscher, is leaning toward adding Best Buy to their portfolio.

"Samsung is coming out with a new phone and the economy is getting better," he said. "People will have money for electronics and will go to Best Buy to buy it."

Unlike their professional counterparts on Wall Street, the novice investors approach their buying and selling as a game. But what separates the men from the boys in this instance is that these boys are actually boys.

Trey and Ryan, both age 10, are fourth-graders at McMurray Elementary School in the Peters Township School District.

As members of an accelerated fifth-grade mathematics class, the youths are teammates in the 10-week, worldwide The Stock Market Game, which simulates real world investing.

The 22 students work in teams to grow $100,000 in virtual cash by researching, buying and trading stocks, bonds and mutual funds at real-time prices.

Through The Stock Market Game curriculum, students are taught financial terms, how to interpret charts and graphs, how stock prices are influenced and more.

Selected news articles spur discussion questions such as "How will this event affect a company's earnings?" and "How might the situation impact the overall economy?"

The Stock Market Game is a program of the nonprofit Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Foundation for Investor Educator.

More than 14 million students have participated in the program since it was established in 1977.

The innovative learning tool is designed to teach students math, economics and social studies plus the importance of saving and investing for the long term. At the same time, it promotes leadership, organization, negotiation and cooperation.

School enrichment teacher Alyson Boyer, who has been conducting The Stock Market Game for more than 20 years, teaches it to the accelerated class once every six days, with the core fifth-grade math curriculum taught the other days by Jamie MacKay.

"Following the real stock market, they have to buy at least 100 shares at a time. There is also a broker's fee," Ms. Boyer said. "They can buy in the day at school with prices at the time; if they buy at home at night, they must wait for the market to open the next day."

The class has eight teams. Each team is entered into the regional competition, with the winning team creating the best-performing portfolio.

Mrs. MacKay said that for accelerated students at that age, real-life experiences are more meaningful than mere instruction.

" 'Why do I need to learn this, and how does it apply to my life?' is what they want to know," she said.

Rachael Gavlik said she learned about the economy and the importance of investing in a variety of stocks.

"You should not put everything in one. Stocks can go up and down very quickly," she said.

Jake Bode abides by the message to diversify. His team portfolio includes Apple, Target and Google.

Teammates Ryan Rose and Stephen Shilling anticipate long-term dividends.

Ryan, who wants to be a doctor, said the program will help him "when I get older and start spending my own money."

"If I become an engineer, I need to know what is going on with the economy," Stephen said.

He also likes the fact that with investing, unlike in traditional math class, there is no right or wrong answer.

"There is not one way to do things," he said.

"I tell them even stockbrokers haven't mastered it yet," Mrs. MacKay said.

For more on The Stock Market Game:

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Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:


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