What do High schoolers do for fun?

Students must overcome a steep personal-finance learning curve.

Ten states use attendance counts from a single day to determine district funding for the school year.In Pictures: Basic Money Lessons You (Probably) Missed in High School

High school students are studying up on calculus, advanced chemistry, and world history, but most aren't learning fundamental money lessons to help them financially navigate the real world.

Such is the case with Jessica Pollack's son Adam, an 18-year-old who graduated in May from Los Alamitos High School in Orange County, California. Much to Jessica's chagrin, the school doesn't require its students to take a personal-finance class to graduate. "It's a top-rated school, but there is no personal-finance requirement, which is just astonishing to me, " Jessica says. "There's a technology requirement that's statewide. As a technology teacher, I appreciate that, but these kids are exposed to computers and technology all the time. Yet when it comes to buying the computer and financing it, they're clueless."

Like Jessica's son, odds are your children will graduate from high school without being taught basic money lessons, including how to create a budget or write a check. Only 13 states require high school students to take a personal-finance class to graduate, according a survey released in March by the nonprofit Council for Economic Education (CEE). And although the recession has raised awareness about economic issues, it appears those heightened concerns have only prompted a few states to require a personal-finance class.

Interest is there, opportunity is not. An interest in personal finance among high school students doesn't appear to be the issue. A recent poll by Sallie Mae found that 84 percent of high school students desire more financial education. Among 16- to 18-year-olds, 86 percent said they would rather learn about money management in the classroom than make financial mistakes in the real world, according to a 2011 survey by investment bank Charles Schwab.

Parents have also expressed concerns over their children's lack of financial knowledge. According to an August survey by MasterCard, 64 percent of parents with college-bound children are worried about their children's ability to manage money.

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