Special students tap into math program to learn life skills


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – It’s a high school math competition where students match wits, in a fun way, and thousands of students across the country are taking part. About 900 students in Western New York participated in MoneySKILL Mania, representing 13 schools.

But at the Occupational Training Center in Buffalo, a school for special education students from Buffalo Public Schools, a group of 15 students stayed after school to learn life skills through the MoneySKILL program—skills that will be critical for them in the coming years.

The OTC is part of Buffalo Public Schools, it is Public School 42, and the students range in age from 17 to 21 years old, so the older students will be moving on soon.

Teacher Kathy Sider customized MoneySKILL for her students’ special needs in a fun and informative way, “We talk about checking accounts, we talk about cash versus credit, we talk about wills.”

The MoneySKILL program was devised by Lewis Mandell, PhD, the former dean of the University at Buffalo’s School of Management. MoneySKILL puts students to the test, in various concepts of money management such as saving, credit, and taxes.

Cynthia Shore, the Senior Assistant Dean at the UB School Management said, the program is built on constant reinforcement of those concepts.

“Presents that concept, then it asks you some questions about the concept that it just presented. Then you answer the question, it gives you the answer–whether you are correct or not correct–and then it reviews it again for you.”

For the OTC students, MoneySKILL is crucial. When they leave as young adults, they will be thrust into the working world, and their survival could depend on how well they can make use of the myriad of special services available to them.

OTC principal Tom Vitale said, “We want to make sure that they are able to live independently, have some type of employment, be able to access community resources, and actually have a quality of life.”

Sider explained one of the important concepts every worker needs to understand, “A paycheck. For instance if a student has a job and he makes $10 an hour, and he works 20 hours this week, he thinks, wow, I am going to bring home $200, and we know that that is not true.”

So Sider explained, the concept of gross pay versus take home pay leads into another concept, income taxes.

Positive reinforcement also came in the form of a tasty prize every time a student got an answer right, and at the end of class they were all treated to pizza. But perhaps the students’ greatest reward is the vital skills they are learning for a lifetime.

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