Ortus Academy, a registered 501c3, was founded when sports coaches Josh Massey and Aaron Velky, observed a consistent lack of basic financial knowledge in the 400+ children they were coaching. They identified a complete gap in Baltimore City’s public- school education curriculum regarding financial literacy.
They developed NumisMatters, a proprietary learning game that simulates ten years of life experiences, teaching the value and consequences of financial decisions. Ortus Academy educates students by providing a fun, hands-on financial education, and incentivizes the learning with cash prizes. This introduces students to crucial money management skills, the keys to future positive financial futures.
To date, over 200 students in both public and private schools have experienced NumisMatters. Utilizing a collegiate volunteer pool of 80+, most of whom return for multiple events, we’ve engaged the community on a city-wide level.
Ortus Academy is a financial literacy leader, using games to highlight and teach the important aspects of smart money management. Financial literacy is not a covered aspect in currently public education, and our founders have created a methodology of teaching these skills that is stylistically unique - using a sports-like game engine to give students a hands-on experience with money.
Ortus Academy currently has three experiential learning program; NumisMatters, our most basic program where students only play the game. Another of our programs is Numis+, it is comprised of two gameplay sessions and one lesson. Lastly is Money Club, our 12 session (3 game, 9 lesson) learning program geared towards a more intensive financial literacy education. All of our sessions are run in an open space with tables arranged around the room. Led by volunteers, students move and rotate through the tables independently.
At each table, we place a tablet, loaded with an app (software) that we developed to help track and log decisions, and to sync with each other. Decisions made at one table, for example - investments, may impact someone’s rent, and our app keeps volunteers from having to work to manage student changes. Volunteers are taught how to run the app and manage their table on site, in about a 5-minute tutorial, and are instructed to respond to questions with follow-up questions, encouraging students to think critically and problem solve without assistance. Each round (“year”) in NumisMatters, students earn income, save and earn interest at a bank, manage a random life event (positive or negative cash flow), pay rent (or a mortgage), pay bills, invest in property or education, and can play the lottery. We focus on identifying and addressing not only fixed money structures like earning and saving, but attitudes as well.
Students are encouraged, through the gameplay, to look at their future and make decisions that elevate their wealth and opportunity continuously. Simultaneously, we tempt them with such enticements as playing the lottery; where a perceived quick fix can be purchased at a nominal fee. Throughout the game students keep track of their decisions and write a narrative of what has occurred. This journaling of their activities facilitates critical thinking and understanding of important concepts. At the end of each game, we offer prize money to the 1st and 2nd place students.
Our programs are typically run after-school, and as a result, we are looking to continue to follow along after other similar programs this summer. Each session is run by Ortus Academy staff and enrolled volunteer teams, lasting 75 minutes each. To draw an especially interactive volunteer base, we’ve fostered mutually beneficial relationships with Hopkins, Loyola, UMBC, University of Baltimore, and Towson to get students involved. College students involved with accounting, education, investing, math and economics clubs are required to donate their time to local charities to receive funding. We are the first non-profit in Baltimore to go after these students and offer them a service tied to their educational interest and give them the opportunity to raise funding for their club simultaneously.