Saving money, spending responsibly, and donating to those in need are core elements of financial health at any age. But these practices are not innate—they have to be taught. And in too many communities around the world, financial literacy skills are not part of a child’s education.
A new web-based interactive learning game from the Prudence Foundation seeks to fill this void by helping children in Asia and Africa learn the ABCs of earning, saving, spending, and donating. According to an EDC evaluation, the game both improves children’s financial literacy skills and promotes conversations about money at home.
“The seeds of financial literacy are planted early, and it’s encouraging to find that a digital game can deliver some core lessons about how to use money wisely,” says EDC’s Bill Tally, who led the evaluation.
In the Cha-Ching Money Adventures digital learning game, children help characters from the popular Cha-Ching cartoon series as they play shows on a musical tour. Players help the characters set financial goals, track earning and spending over time, and respond to unexpected financial events along the way. Players who successfully navigate all four modules of the game are rewarded with a final level—a stadium concert. Two Moos, a digital design firm in Australia, designed the interactive game, and EDC provided instructional design oversight.
To evaluate the impact of the game, EDC recruited fourth-grade students and their families in the Philippines, a popular market for Cha-Chingmaterials. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups—one that played Cha-Ching Money Adventures at home over two weeks or one that played a selection of science, math, and ecology games over the same period. Between both study and control groups, 293 children completed a 24-item test of financial literacy before and after two weeks of game play.
The evaluation found that Cha-Ching Money Adventures was engaging for eight- and nine-year-old children and measurably improved their financial literacy. After two weeks of playing the game, children in the study group scored higher on a financial literacy assessment, while children in the control group showed no such improvement. Further, children who completed all four modules, repeated at least one module, and spent more than 90 minutes playing showed even greater learning gains compared to the control group.
The evaluation also revealed that Cha-Ching Money Adventures helped foster family conversations about money, an important contributor to children’s financial literacy. Fifty-nine percent of Cha-Ching players indicated that they talked “a lot” about the game with their parents, compared to only 33 percent of children in the control group. These family conversations covered a wide range of financial ideas, including the importance of being “money smart,” specific ways to earn and save money, and how to find charitable causes to donate to.
The bottom line, according to Tally, is that Cha-Ching Money Adventures works as intended—and provides yet another piece of evidence that well-designed digital games can further learning in out-of-school settings.
“It’s a bit of an art to make learning part of digital games without stripping away all the fun of playing them,” says Tally. “This game, designed for home play, successfully walked that line. We hope it can serve as a model for other learning games that kids play for fun at home.”