PITTSFIELD — In essence, investing in a stock market is a game of chance, but this semester, a team of Egremont Elemetary School fifth-graders found themselves winning at it.
The students, from January to April, were participants in The Stock Market Game, an educational stock market investment experience sponsored by the SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) Foundation. The team, guided by Egremont math coach, Cynthia Scwartz, included Allison Blau, Jamie Duquette, Randi Duquette, Charlie Heimann, Will Kinne, Georgia Raser and Avery Vale-Cruz.
On April 18, Elizabeth Reidel, foundation vice president and national director for The Stock Market Game, emailed that they had won second place in the national elementary school division. On May 20 they traveled to Boston to make a presentation, tour and celebrate at a luncheon "with the best brownies" at Fidelity Investments; visit the trading floor of Goldman Sachs, and meet members of top teams participating in the game's fall and spring sessions and the InvestWrite financial research and writing program.
Schwartz said the group of students she brought together are exceptionally interested in math. This team then met outside of class time to put their heads together and figure out how to invest in and earn returns on investment in shares of various stocks, purchased with a fictional backing of a $100,000 cash balance.
"It gets kids really excited about multiplying, dividing, adding, subtracting," said Schwartz on why she's convened an Egremont team for the past three years. "Beyond that, it's showing kids job opportunities that may not be so obvious to them in everyday life."
The Egremont team said they learned to "respectfully disagree" and voted on purchasing various quantities of stocks using a two-thirds majority process.
"You have to work together or it won't work," said Blau.
The students based their stock and share quantity purchases on 52-week stock trading trends and five-year performance data, price-earnings ratios, budgeting skills and personal interests in companies. They bought and traded shares in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL); Standard and Poor's Depositary Receipts (SPDR), more commonly called Spyders (American Exchange: SPY); Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS); and General Dynamics Corporation (NYSE: GD). They initially bought shares in Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. (NASDAQ: RRGB), but sold them all when the company hit a steady downward trend.
The team was among the few that ultimately finished in the black, with Egremont holding a balance of $105,167.70.
In addition to winning and traveling to Boston, the students said they enjoyed the experience they gained from the game.
"It helps you grow stronger in math," said Vale-Cruz.
Said Heimann, who watched nightly marketplace reports with his father, "It's better to learn when you're younger than when you're older."
Plus, he quipped, "It's a fun way to be lazy and still make money."