Content Partner

Grade 3-5, 6-8

PBS-NOVA Financial Lab

Time: 45 min,
Updated: May 24 2024,


Students will be able to:

  • Understand the concept of financial well-being, and – within limits – how their own decisions can help them achieve it.
  • Recognize opportunity costs in order to balance present and future well-being when making financial decisions.
  • Develop three broad mental accounts (essential expenses, non-essential expenses, and savings) to assist with budgeting, and adjust plans as necessary to attend to absolute rather than relative savings and costs (because money is fungible).
  • Overcome exponential growth bias by grasping the powerful, non-linear effect of interest rates over time to develop a debt payment and investment strategy based on interest rates (and independent from the default and minimum payment options). 


Managing money is hard! Even when you know what you should do, it can be hard to actually do it. In these games from the PBS science series NOVA, students practice strategies for making financial decisions by taking care of a pet while learning how to overcome common behavioral biases.

Players begin by watching an introductory video in which financial educator Yanely Espinal explores what we mean by financial wellness.  Pausing along the way to ask players to reflect on their own experiences with money, she then explains why it can be so hard to follow up on our intentions when we’re faced with financial decisions – because common behavioral biases tend to crop up when we think about money, whether we do it quickly and act on autopilot or deliberate more slowly over our choices.

Now players are ready to play the three mini-games we’ve designed to help them identify some key biases and practice strategies for overcoming them.

  • In Shopportunity Cost, you’re getting ready to go to a concert – with your pet! But in order to sneak them in, you’ll need to make sure they pass as a human…which means you have some shopping to do. With each item you need to purchase comes a challenge: how to maximize your pet’s happiness while sticking to your budget. Because of our tendency to focus on the choice right in front of us – without considering the items we could buy with that money later – it’s harder than it sounds.
  • In Budget Buster, your job is to take care of your pet, seeing to both its basic needs and overall happiness, for six months. To do it well, you must learn how to break your expenses down into useful “buckets” to help organize, evaluate, and track your spending. But don’t get too comfy: even the best plans should be adjusted when surprises, both good and bad, happen.
  • In Exponential Potential, our game about longer term financial planning, your pet has taken a peek at the future and it’s not looking very good. Luckily, they have you and a time machine to help them decide how to pay off debts and make investments in order to maximize their net worth. Your success depends on your ability to master compound interest – a concept we humans struggle to comprehend – and make it your friend, not your enemy.