RisingTigers Project

Imagine a world of self-assured children who grow up applying economics & financial literacy to buttress their triumphs & general wellness

Photo of Caroline Kim
4 1

Written by

Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

It is June 2008. As the Director of the Honolulu SBDC, a resource center of the SBA, I am plagued with a nagging thought that something is not right here: Why are our entrepreneurs afraid of their financial statements? Didn't they learn this in school? In the midst of the '08 Recession, I want to discover the whys. We ascertain little is taught consistently combining economics & financial literacy so focus on Grades K-5 to integrate our subjects to reach this most teachable target group.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani)

If you chose to self-identify your race, ethnicity, or origin, please share here: (the answer will not be public)

Second generation Chinese of immigrant grand-parents.


Site under construction. Teachers collaborative building digital educational tools that make integration with Math, language Arts (& other disciplines) transparent while meeting current standards.

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Hawaii

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]

We piloted the program in Honolulu, Hawaii with excellent results. Rubics with 75-80% success rates

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Hawaii

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]


Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Math, language arts, other disciplines, are traditionally taught as stand alone subjects, where the relevancy to real life is absent. Economics and Financial Literacy are the concepts that underlie all our decisions. Integrated along with other subjects, students learn, reinforce & apply ideas on how money drives the economy, channels production & delivery of goods and services, & learn critical analysis. Knowledge 2 assuredness 2 success!

The RisingTigers Project (the Project) is designed for continuous improvement to move from a traditional teaching mode to one that helps students relate to why they learn specific information.  Who has not asked:  "Why do I need to learn this?"  What so often is missing is relevancy.   Educational research studies (citations available) confirm:  

-Integrating several disciplines has numerous benefits.  Among them more individualized learning opportunities, better student engagement, growth of a better brain through challenging problem solving, multiple intelligence and higher order thinking skills.

-Curriculum relevancy improves student outcomes on both academic and affective measures.

-Financial education makes a difference as it empowers and equips young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to take charge of their lives and build a more secure future for themselves and their families.

-Standards based instruction and curriculum must be presented as early as possible in the elementary grades in order for the public's financial investment to bring forth the greatest value

Based on 3 years of pilot program experience

Pilot teaching Grade K

and supported by the above research, the Project chose a model that is collaborative, continuous, transparent for the user and sustainable.  The target users are teachers and educational systems that provide education to our youngest learners (Grades K-5) in order that firm foundations become habits of the mind and in turn provide excellent measures of security, happiness and comfort in the long run.

This Project collaborates with financial institutions and planners to bring excitement and fun to the classrooms while teaching concepts.  In the photo above, the children were taught the concepts of save, share and spend.  Letters were sent home to parents asking them to find paying jobs for their youngsters. Children then brought their earnings to school, and deposited it into their tri-section banks.  They were taught to save at least 10% and pay themselves first.  As they learned the uses of money to rent/pay for housing, food and clothing (wants and needs), they also were taught how important it was also to share.  Pets was the unit of study so the students discussed and decided how to share their "share" portion of the money.  In the end, the students agreed to combine all their "share" money and paid a visit to the Humane Society where a check was delivered.  By the very virtue of sharing, these students have added to their box of wellness.

Pilot, Grade 1, Learning buying and selling (Lighthouse study unit)

While there are numerous programs that address financial literacy for students of all ages, in our research we did not find another program that uniquely weds both economics and financial literacy specifically to our target group.  We believe RisingTigers model results in the best cost for value.  The photos below captures one of the final extemporaneous presentation assessments where students reached into the 'fishbowl' filled with topics and spoke to what they learned (without any prior preparation.)

Final 'Fishbowl' Assessment
Assessment Presentation, 2015

The Project in in it's 4th year working with teachers.  There have been many challenges:

1.  Change from a fully supportive administration in the pilot program to one that has a different perspective and direction.  The prior administrator not only encouraged his teachers participation, he found ways for them to reschedule, and provided resources.

2.  The Project's limited human and financial resources.  Being only one deep often stretches the ability to reach more teachers and administrators.

3.  Educational system that focuses on a return to basic math and language arts, therefore not affording time for teachers even to consider integration.  Our local system is tying teacher performance to student performance on standardized tests.    It is only the very secure teams of teachers that are able and willing to participate with us.  

Another part of the Project is a gaming assessment tool.  Students can play individually, in teams, and across game spaces.  This board game design sported fully motivated and committed teachers.  5 schools were represented with a dozen teams and 75 students.

The challenges:

1.  Teams from schools with military populations lost team mates due to parents assigned to permanent change of duty stations.

2.  Depending on only one game designer to help all these teams

3.  Realizing that publishing board games--turning them into digital assets is a long, long process!

4.  Again, the lack of sufficient human resources to facilitate, mentor and guide teams.

However, we did finish games.  We are publishing them as boxed board games for each participating team, and we celebrated with food, fun, and awards.

Game Design Celebration, 2015

Additionally, the Project does not just tell teachers and other how and why integration with economic and financial literacy works, but it helps teachers do it.

While there were many challenges, and I am sure there will be more in the years ahead, but this Project will add to a child's foundation where he will find his/her ability to confront problems with confidence because they understand the importance of knowing how money and economics work in their world.  

Looking down the road, our next challenge will be to reach a tipping point where our grass roots efforts help change the community's current perspective on incorporating and integrating economics and financial literacy as foundational for each child.

Over the years, the Project is supported by a wonderful cast of advisors from education, economics, technology, finance and even graphics and art.  We believe the project speaks for itself.  Aside from this narrative there are other untold stories, but I believe the photos attached help convey the joy, confidence and general happiness that is so important to building our next generation of well-rounded and outstanding leaders

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

The Project initially engages at the grassroots level--i.e. with teachers, to plan lessons that incorporated math, STEM, language arts along with economics and financial literacy. Lessons are adapted to the unit of study along with meeting specific related standards. Rubrics each year have included a stand up presentation with students reaching into a 'fish bowl,' picking a topic related to one of the several lessons presented and speaking extemporaneously for a minute or more. The project photos captured the sense of accomplishment, self confidence and helped measure that indeed knowledge had been gained. Some students (Grade K) were even able to relate sharing to the contributions the class gave to the Humane Society that year!

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Some 100 students were part of the last year's pilot project. Because the Project piloted with these students from Grade K, it was able to continually reinforce the concepts of save, spend, share, scarcity, money (how to earn it, when to buy with it, borrowing,) wants, needs, consumer, producers, markets, price elasticity, and decision making through the following grades. The Project's collected data show that the great majority of the students learned the economic and financial concepts related to their math, language arts subjects and this last year included a brief lesson in STEM as well. Conversations with students demonstrated they could think critically as they solved related problems. We expand by continually engaging teachers from other schools & district superintendents to support integrating our program of economics and financial literacy along with their current curricula.

Organization Type

  • for-profit

Annual Budget

  • $1k - $10k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

The Project's business model is to make the resources, educational tools, and professional support all internet available (including on mobile devices.) Professionals who collaborated thus far with us will have unlimited use of the products. When tools for all grade levels is completed, armed with data, we will offer/market the products (bundled) at a minimal cost educational institutions as well as by subscription to individual educators.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

There are numerous institutions and organizations that offer financial literacy for a wide range of ages. There are fewer that offer economics courses, but these are offered to students at upper levels of education (high school +). Most do not scaffold the learning, or if they do, do not have staff to ensure that it happens. We believe economics and financial education are inseparable to decision making and problem solving and so have intertwined the two to fill the gap, intentionally offer resources, and tools to help teachers accomplish the integration of our program with their curricula

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

IMAGINE our future children turn adults using all the benefits that technology can give: artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-D printing are just the beginning of even further innovation & entrepreneurship. There appears to be almost no limit to how technology & related fields can improve life, including happiness of children. How our next generation of leaders takes on the the changing culture, ethical questions on the slippery slopes, & in turn how they choose to use the foundations we now build for them will determine the advancement of another generation of children. North Star ahead!

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Word of mouth

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka, who was it? (the answer will not be public)

I received information about the Challenge just days ago from a Doctoral student at the University of Washington, Department of Education/Information. She has been intimately involved with RisingTigers almost since day one. Because of her many years of teaching experience, great ideas and unabashed support I would recognize Cathleen Hazel as an integral member on our team of informal 'advisors' as we muddled through to clarity and implementation. She is reachable at: csplicer@comcast.net


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lacy Stephens

Hi Caroline, This sounds like a very interesting (and engaging!) curricula you have developed. It sounds like you are doing some in depth analysis. Could you share what measures you are using for evaluation. Also, it seems to me there is an argument for the broader societal impacts of financial literacy and economic education. Do you have any data on this? Thank you!

Photo of Caroline Kim

Lacey, if you are still interest4ed, please connect with me:  caroline64kim@gmail.com.  :)  Have a wonderful week ahead!

View all comments