Steve Demme’s Stewardship math course teaches a biblical approach for dealing with personal finances. This is likely to be the most practical math course a student ever takes since it covers topics such as earning money, taxes deducted from your paycheck and taxes paid by employers, checking accounts, computing compound interest, budgeting, various options for investing, credit cards, comparison shopping, evaluating mobile phone plans, buying and maintaining a car, and buying a home. These and similar topics are covered in the first 18 lessons.
The remainder of the course’s thirty lessons is more specialized. There are six lessons that pertain to home building or furnishing—lessons such as those on contracting and painting, purchasing carpet, purchasing concrete, planning electrical circuits needed for a new home, and understanding R-Values for insulation.
The remaining six lessons help students apply mathematics in even more varied situations: converting foreign currencies, keeping score for various sports, purchasing printing services, calculating grade point averages and wind chill factors, comparing the cost and convenience of various forms of transportation, and comparing UPS and USPS for shipping services.
While all of these lessons use selected examples to illustrate each topic, they are designed to teach basic principles and skills that can be used in other applications or situations.
This course consists of video lessons on two DVDs, a hard cover instruction manual, a student workbook, a text booklet, and a Biblical Foundations book.
Video lessons average about ten minutes each, although some run only six or seven minutes and some run up to 18 minutes. Video lessons are taught by Demme to an actual class with whom he interacts. However, the camera is on Demme, and he teaches efficiently using a whiteboard to show the math. On the video, even though Demme receives responses from students, we generally don’t hear them. Demme repeats their answers when needed, so we’re not missing anything.
Students should begin by watching the video lesson, then reading the instruction manual. The instruction manual also teaches the primary mathematical concepts covered in the video lessons using similar examples but in a different fashion. The instruction manual leaves out some essential information so it can’t be used in place of having students watch the video lessons. Some students might be able to skip the instruction manual and go right to the student workbook. The instruction manual has answer keys with solutions for lessons and tests at the back of the book. A test for each chapter is in the text booklet.
The consumable student workbook has questions to answer and problems to solve. It does not include teaching material. Some questions require students to “interview” their parents and grandparents (or another elderly person) with questions such as “Which bank, or banks, do they use?”, “What services do they use that the bank provides?”, and “Have your parents or grandparents ever negotiated or haggled when purchasing some item or service?” The goal with such questions is to help students gain greater perspective from parents and grandparents as well as to facilitate discussion of financial issues between parents and children.
There are four sets of questions for each lesson, so students should complete the first two of these sets before reading the corresponding chapter in Biblical Foundations. They can then complete the last two sets of questions since these sets contain questions that pertain to biblical concepts taught in Biblical Foundations.
For some problems Stewardship encourages students to use a spreadsheet or financial calculator (compound interest calculators for loans and investments can be found here). While formulas for simple and compound interest are discussed (and used in some problems), the focus is on getting a feel for how investments and loans behave in the long term.
The math should be manageable by students about eighth grade level and up, but high school students are likely to be the most interested since they are closer to actually needing to apply math is these situations.
While Stewardship shares some similarities with other consumer math courses, it is not as comprehensive on topics covered. While it could be spread over one school year, I think it can easily be completed in one semester. It would make a great “summer school” course for a teen. Beyond the math coverage, Stewardship goes deeply into biblical principles related to finance via Biblical Foundations. It covers basic attitudes towards money and resources as well as topics such as contentment, covetousness, marriage and money, tithing, leaving and inheritance, fair dealing, the lure of getting rich quickly, and the danger of co-signing. Each lesson ends with a prayer. Demme recommends that students read through and discuss lessons in Biblical Foundations with their parents. However, if that isn’t possible, students can read through these lessons on their own. While some Christian courses in consumer finance cover some of the topics raised in Biblical Foundations, I have not seen any others that spend such a significant amount of time on the biblical aspects.
The course is sold in two packages. The instruction pack includes the instruction manual, Biblical Foundations, and the DVDs. The student pack includes the student workbook and test booklet. You need only purchase additional student packs for more than one student.
The Stewardship course seems to me to be a perfect fit for homeschoolers who want to make sure their children learn practical consumer math along with how to exercise true wisdom in financial matters.