Grade 9-12

What is a Stock?

Updated: April 15 2024,
Author: Mark Schug

The students work in small groups that represent households. Each household answers questions about stocks and stock markets. For each correct answer, a household earns shares of stock. At the end of the game, the groups that answered all questions correctly receive a certificate good for 150 shares of stock in The Stock Knowledge Company. They also receive dividends based on their shares. Those who answered fewer questions correctly receive fewer shares and smaller dividends. Finally, the students participate in a role playing activity to learn more about stocks.


Stocks are sometimes called equities. Equity means ownership. If you own a stock, you have equity in, or own, a portion of the company that issued the stock. When a corporation decides to sell shares of its stock to the public, it hires an investment banker to sell the stock. This sale is called an initial public offering (IPO). In return for shares sold, the company receives money. After the shares are sold in the primary market, stocks are bought and sold by the public in secondary stock markets such as the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ Stock Market.

This lesson was originally published in CEE’s Learning Earning and Investing for a New Generation , which introduces students to the world of personal finance through 21 lessons that provide active learning experiences to help students master the basics of investing. Visit the  CEE Store  for more information about the publication and how to purchase it.

Learning Objectives

  • Define income, saving, stock, and dividend.
  • Explain why people buy stock.
  • Identify advantages and disadvantages of owning stocks.
  • Explain ways in which stockholders can reduce risk.

Resource List

  • Slides 3.1 and 3.2
  • A copy of Activity 3.1 for each group
  • Three copies of Activity 3.2
  • A copy of Activity 3.3 for each student
  • An envelope, one sheet of plain white paper, one marker, and one sheet of construction paper for each group of 3-4 students
  • A roll of transparent tape for each group of 3-4 students
  • A large supply of small, wrapped candies—a minimum of 30 pieces per group of 3-4 students


  1. Before the class begins, write your name on the line labeled Teacher’s Name on Activity 3.1. Make a copy of Activity 3.1 for each group of 3-4 students. Cut each copy of Activity 3.1 on the perforation lines and place the strips in an envelope. Label the envelopes Shares of Stock Group 1, Shares of Stock Group 2, Shares of Stock Group 3, and so on. There should be an envelope for each group in the classroom.
  2. Introduce the lesson briefly as a lesson about stocks. Ask the students what they have heard about stocks. (Answers will vary.) Explain that stocks represent shares of ownership—sometimes called equity—in a corporation.
  3. Tell the students that they will participate in a group activity. Each group represents a household—that is, an individual or family unit. Households earn income. Income is payments earned by households for providing resources. For example, households are in effect selling some of their time when they send an earner to work for wages or a salary. Households usually spend some of their income as consumers and save some of it. Saving refers to the portion of income not spent on consumption or taxes. Some households use their savings to purchase stocks. Stocks can also be purchased on margin or with borrowed money. (Note: Purchasing stocks on margin is the subject of Lesson 8.)
  4. Explain the activity to follow. Each group will have an opportunity to earn stock by correctly answering questions about stocks. Tell the students that for each correct answer, a household will receive a strip of paper worth 15 shares of stock in The Stock Knowledge Company. If the group answers all questions correctly, the strips can be taped together to create a stock certificate that represents 150 shares of The Stock Knowledge Company. Groups that answer only some of the questions correctly will own fewer shares of stock.
  5. Explain that people who own shares of stock are called investors (or shareholders, or stockholders). Stockholders are partial owners of a company. The households will be partial owners of The Stock Knowledge Company.
  6. Organize the class into groups of three or four students. Assign each group a number corresponding to the numbers written on the envelopes containing the strips. Distribute a piece of plain white paper and a marker to each group.
  7. Tell each group to appoint a spokesperson. Tell the spokesperson to write a large “T” (using the marker) on one side of the paper and a large “F” on the other side of the paper. Explain that when a question is asked, members of the group will have a few moments to discuss the question and decide whether the answer is true or false. When told to “show the answer,” the spokesperson should hold up the side of the paper displaying “T” if the group thinks the answer is true or the “F” side if the group thinks the answer is false.
  8. Tell each group to appoint a stockholder. This person will hold the envelope containing the shares of stock and will take the correctly-numbered strip from the envelope when the group answers a question correctly. Each time the group answers a question correctly, it will receive a stock strip representing 15 shares of stock. These stock strips will be important when the game is over.
  9. Display Slide 3.1, revealing only the first question. Read the question and allow the groups to decide on answers. Tell the groups to hold up their answers all together when they are told to do so. Tell the stockholders for the groups that answered the question correctly to take stock strip 1 from the envelope. Continue revealing one question at a time.
    (Answers to questions: 1. T, 2. F, 3. T, 4. F, 5. F, 6. F, 7. F, 8. T, 9. T, 10. F. Note: If a group answers question 1 incorrectly but answers question 2 correctly, the group would receive its first strip for its answer to question 2. If the group answers question 3 correctly, it would receive its second strip, and so on.)
  10. When the game is over, distribute a piece of construction paper and a tape dispenser to each group. Tell the group members to tape the strips together. Point out that if they missed questions, they will not have all of the strips needed to complete the certificate.
  11. Allow time for the groups to tape their strips together. Display a slide of Activity 3.1 and explain that this is a certificate of stock ownership. If a group answered all of the questions correctly, it will have a complete certificate. Ask:
    1. If your group answered all of the questions correctly, how many shares of stock would the group own?
    2. How many shares does your group own?
      (Answers will vary but could include 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 105, 120, 135, 150.)
    3. Of the 150 shares your group could have purchased, what percent does your group in fact own?
      (Answers will vary but could include: 15 shares = 10% [15/150 = 0.1; 0.1 x 100 = 10%], 30 shares = 20%, 45 shares = 30%, 60 shares = 40%, 75 shares = 50%, 90 shares = 60%, 105 shares = 70%, 120 shares = 80%, 135 shares = 90%, 150 shares = 100%.)
  12. Tell the students that the groups will earn dividends based on the number of shares they own. Dividends are a part of a company’s profits that may be distributed to stockholders. For this activity, dividends will be paid in candy. Explain that the dividend paid on each share of The Stock Knowledge Company stock is one-fifth of a piece of candy. Tell each group to determine its dividends. (15 shares = 3 pieces of candy (1/5 x 15 = 3), 30 shares = 6, 45 shares = 9, 60 shares = 12, 75 shares = 15, 90 shares = 18, 105 shares = 21, 120 shares = 24, 135 shares = 27, and 150 shares = 30.) When the groups have calculated their dividends, distribute the candy to each group.
  13. Ask: How do you think this game is different from occasions when dividends are distributed in real life?
    (In real life, obviously, dividends are distributed in money, not candy. More important, in real life, households don’t have an opportunity to “win” stock by answering questions. Instead, they have to decide to save some of their income and use it to buy stocks. Dividends depend on the company’s performance and its decisions on paying out earnings.)
  14. Select three students to participate in a role playing activity about stocks. Give each of these students a copy of Activity 3.2 and allow them a few minutes to read the play.
  15. Distribute a copy of Activity 3.3 to each of the remaining students. Tell them that they will listen to a short play that takes place at dinnertime in the Navarro house. Tell the students to read the questions on Activity 3.3. As they watch the play, they should listen for answers to the questions.
  16. Tell the three cast members to come to the front of the room and read the play. When the play is over, discuss the following:
    1. What is a stock?
      (Part ownership in a corporation.)
    2. Why do corporations issue stock?
      (To raise money to pay for equipment, buildings, and operating expenses.)
    3. When the shares of stock are first issued, to whom are they sold?
      (They are sold to investment banks.)
    4. How does the corporation get money from the stocks?
      (The investment banks pay for the stocks.)
    5. Why do investment banks buy stock?
      (They expect to resell the stock to the public for a higher price in the secondary market.)
    6. What are stock markets?
      (Places or ways in which people can buy and sell stocks.)
    7. Why do people buy stocks?
      (They expect to earn money.)
    8. How do people earn money from stocks?
      (There are two ways. They may sell the stock at a higher price than the price they paid for it, making a capital gain. They may also receive dividends.)
    9. What are dividends?
      (Part of the company’s profits, distributed to owners.)
    10. When people buy stock, is there a guarantee that they will receive dividends or that they will be able to sell the stock at a price higher than the price they paid for it?
    11. If there’s no guarantee, why are people willing to buy stock?
      (Because the stocks they buy might provide them with a higher return than the return they could get by putting money into other financial investments or a savings account.)
    12. What determines the price of a stock?
      (The value of a stock depends on whether stockholders want to keep or sell the stock and how much those who want to buy the stock are willing to pay for it.)
    13. What are the main advantages of owning stock?
      (Sharing in the company’s profits as the company grows; having a chance to get an above-average return on a financial investment.)
    14. What is the main disadvantage of owning stock?
      (The chance of losing all or part of the investment.)
  17. Ask the students if they know what a portfolio is and what it means to diversify. (Answers will vary.) Tell one student to find the meaning of diversify in the dictionary. Tell another student to find the meaning of portfolio. Have the students read the definitions. (Diversify: to spread out or vary investments; portfolio: an itemized list of investments.)
  18. Explain that stockholders can reduce the chance of losing their financial investment and increase the chance of earning a solid return if they diversify their portfolios. This means they must buy various types of stock—for example, stock in an electronics company, a computer company, a company that sells prepared foods, and an entertainment company. Investors can also buy stocks of small, medium, and large firms. And stockholders can diversify by buying shares in a mutual fund. A mutual fund is a pool of money collected from different people and invested by a manager with the goal of increasing the value of each share of the fund for its investors. (Note: For additional information about mutual funds, see Lesson 6.)


Review the lesson by asking the following questions:

  1. What is income?
    (Income is payments earned by households in return for providing resources, such as time worked to earn wages. More technically, income consists of all payments earned by households for selling or renting their productive resources. This would include wages for selling labor, interest for loaned money, profi ts for operating a family business, and rent on owned property.)
  2. What is savings?
    (Income not spent on consumption and taxes.)
  3. What are stocks?
    (Part ownership or equity in a corporation.)
  4. Why do corporations issue stock?
    (To raise money to pay for things needed to operate the business and earn a profit.)
  5. Why do people buy stocks?
    (They expect to earn a return on their investment in stocks.)
  6. When stockholders sell their stock, do corporations receive the money from the sale?
    Who does?
    (The stockholder.)
  7. How do stockholders earn money on their financial investment?
    (By selling the stock they own at a higher price than they paid for it, and by receiving dividends.)
  8. What are dividends?
    (A part of a company’s profi ts that may be distributed to shareholders.)
  9. What can a corporation do with its profi ts besides pay dividends?
    (It can put the profi ts back into the business.)
  10. What is the main disadvantage of being a stockholder?
    (The chance of losing part or all of an investment.)
  11. What are the main advantages of being a stockholder?
    (Sharing in the company’s profits as the firm grows; having the chance to get an above-average return on a financial investment.)
  12. What influences the value of a stock?
    (Whether the stockholders want to keep it or sell it; how much buyers are willing to pay for it.)
  13. Are stockholders guaranteed a return on their financial investment?
  14. How can stockholders reduce their chance of a loss?
    (They can diversify and invest in mutual funds.)


Multiple-Choice Questions

  1. What is a stock dividend?
    1. a capital gain
    2. part of a company’s profits that is paid to owners
    3. the price the stock is sold for
    4. the price paid when stock is sold to an investment bank
  2. People buy stocks because
    1. they expect to earn a return.
    2. there is no chance of a loss.
    3. the government encourages them to buy stock.
    4. they are guaranteed interest payments each year.
  3. One way people can earn money from stocks is by
    1. buying stock from an investment banker.
    2. selling the stock for the same price as the price they paid for the stock.
    3. selling the stock for a lower price than the price they paid for the stock.
    4. selling the stock for a higher price than the price they paid for the stock.
  4. When people buy stock on a stock market,
    1. the corporation loses money.
    2. the people selling the stock receive the money.
    3. the corporation receives the money.
    4. the people buying the stock receive the money.

Constructed-Response Items

  1. What can people do to reduce their chance of loss in the stock market?
    (They can diversify their portfolio—that is, they can buy many different types of stocks, or they can buy mutual funds.)
  2. Explain the advantages of owning stocks.
    (Stockholders have a chance to earn money through dividends. They also may earn money by selling the stock at a higher price than they price they paid for it.)