How to Trade (like a Kindergartener)

There is an infamous book referenced often in my life, having a mother as a devoted kindergarten teacher. And, truly, I live by the words of author Robert Fulghum in that All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Walking around a Kindergarten classroom is not too far off what I imagine it’s like on the ground of the New York Stock Exchange: bustling individuals running back and forth, disorderly papers with scribbles on the margins, shouting over desired items, and manipulating the market (teacher) for a little extra playtime. Maybe the NYSE could learn a few things from a kindergarten teacher, because if trading has anything to do with kindergarteners, it’s the consistent “you need to share” heard throughout the day.

            It can be seen in the hoarded crayons in one student’s desk or the special Lego collection another was allowed to bring from home- differences exist within kindergarten students’ specializations in the classroom. Walking around on a Monday, I was offered a handful of small dolls and a broken colored pencil. Both of which were declined, and I apologized for not having a gift to trade back with them. That’s when it dawned on me that these kindergarteners had trading figured out: my lack of materials and resources in the moment were fulfilled by somebody that specialized in making two halves of broken colored pencils from a measly one whole pencil- genius! The trading in the classroom didn’t just stop there, as it was clear how resource allocation was used even by five-year-olds to incentivize trading further. 

            On the playground, students are told to enjoy their snack near the wall to separate from activities and toys not to be mixed with eating. Monitoring the few students stuffing dirty hands into Ziploc bags along the wall, a shrill ‘I still want more snack!’ can be heard. The student whines as they bounce a ball by, seemingly utilizing the playground’s Open Outcry System, just as in the NYSE. Another student pulls their hand from their bag of chips, offering it to the student in exchange for their ball. They lunge for the ball, barely landing the bag right-side-up in the hungry students’ accepting arms. Just like that, a perfect trade was witnessed and the class’ equilibrium was met. 

            I’m not here to say that a kindergartener is perfectly prepared to be a floor trader for the NYSE, but rather that the lessons they are honing in their classroom reflect those necessary to survive in the stock market. Abilities to share, the immediate knowledge of an ask or bid offered up, and simple transactions with low costs shows the similarities between a kindergarten class and the stock exchange. After all, anything floor traders really need to know was learned in kindergarten anyway. 

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