Money Problems

In 2012 we published a new reading/numeracy package, Money Problems, which includes not only reading texts at our usual three levels and language-based exercises but also teaching notes and exercises on VERY basic numeracy, aimed at students who have not had the opportunity to attend school in their countries of origin and come from subsistence-farming societies where numbers do not feature prominently in everyday life as they do in Australia.

The volume of reading material covers the basics of budgeting: where individuals and the Government get money from, keeping money and valuables safe, borrowing, interest, repaying loans, and finally planning a budget to avoid future problems.

The Money Problems Workbook contains: 
  • Notes and suggestions for teachers
  • Bibliography for teachers
  • Comparative reading texts
  • Vocabulary lists for each level of reading text
  • Photocopiable language exercises at the three levels with suggested answers
    The exercises include vocabulary consolidation, comprehension, sentence structure, pronunciation and spelling and opportunities for discussion and writing.
  • Notes on numeracy issues, particularly for teachers of students from cultures where numbers are not important in everyday life.  This section includes some notes on possible cultural issues.
  • Photocopiable hand cards and wall charts
  • Photocopiable Numbers Book, which has exercises in basic numeracy, ranging from counting, place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division up to decimals and percentages. There are some exercises on shopping, calculating change and the cost of a home cooked meal and cold drinks.
 It is recognised that some students will not reach the final sections of this booklet and should not be pressured to attempt exercises that are significantly beyond their current skills and confidence levels.

29 pages of Fact Sheets which cover in easy English:
signing papers
where to find help
financial counsellors and advisers
renting accommodation
mobile phones
buying a car or a house
different forms of sho[[ing
debt and debt collectors
an index at the end of the sction

All the exercises and Fact Sheets in this volume are photocopiable

We stress that, while we have done our utmost to present accurate information in this resource package and have consulted widely, we are not lawyers or financial counsellors.  Moreover, laws sometimes vary from state to state and are changed by our parliaments from time to time.  So we strongly suggest teachers double check areas of concern with authorities in their own state or territory.

The Sound Recording CD includes:
  • Lyndal Reid's very clear reading of each of the reading texts;
  • The Money Song, which was written by Lyndal and is performed twice by Lyndal with guitarist and singer, George Buwali: the first time slowly and lined (Lyndal sings a line and George & Lyndal repeat it) and the second version at a slightly quicker pace with the two performers singing together.

Review in Fine Print 2012 Vol. 35 #3, pp.37-38, the journal for the Victorian Adult Literacy and Basic Education Council (VALBEC)  Reproduced here with kind permission of VALBEC

Money Problems by Hazel Davidson and illustrated by Dorothy Court 
Reviewed by Eleni Prineas

 The Money Problems workbook is a teaching resource developed by ESL teachers who recognise the difficulty many new immigrants encounter in dealing with money and budgeting.

The essential topics are dealt with: paying bills, banking, credit, debt and budgeting. There are warnings about scams and advice about where to seek help with financial matters.

There is a clearly delineated delivery of key content with increasing difficulty over three levels: easy, medium and hard. As well as reading texts and exercises at the three levels, the package includes a sound recording of the texts.

Financial literacy delivery for ESL students is important. This resource provides essential information in an accessible way. As an ESL teacher lacking in any artistic ability I am strongly drawn to illustrated texts, and Dorothy Court’s black and white sketches are simple and effective. Importantly, they are included at every level, so even as the linguistic complexity of the text increases, the instant communication of concepts provided by the illustrations is maintained. Teachers working with multilevel classes will particularly appreciate this feature.

An important inclusion in the package is the Numbers book, which provides numeracy exercises from elementary counting to decimals, percentages and shopping. The excellent introduction to this section contains the rationale for its inclusion, which stresses the danger of assuming that all ESL students have basic numeracy skills. There are hand cards and games, and calculations that include the language used.

The literacy-based exercises are equally useful, with activities appropriate to the different levels. Easy includes picture/text matching, word finds and spelling activities; medium has comprehension and budgeting as well as spelling linked to pronunciation (with, I was glad to see, symbols from the phonetic alphabet); hard includes vocabulary consolidation, and paragraph and summary writing.

My mixed-level class of ESL students—preliminary and level one Certificate in Spoken and Written English—particularly enjoyed the picture-matching and spelling/pronunciation-related worksheets.

One of the major strengths of the resource is the comprehensive guide provided to teachers and tutors. There are well-supported arguments for the inclusion of particular content and approaches, with a useful bibliography, and tips and advice for classroom delivery.

The resource is practical and relevant: more advanced students will appreciate the glossaries and grammar exercises. For English language beginners, this resource used in combination with something like the Australian government’s multilingual online Money Management Kit, will ensure acquisition of essential financial management knowledge.

In Victoria, Money Problems is available through TESL Books,, and Bookery Education, For availability in other states please go to

Eleni Prineas is an ESL and adult literacy teacher at Preston Reservoir Adult Education (PRACE). She has a Graduate Certificate in TESOL and a Master of Arts in Language and Literacy.