Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Diminishing Marginal Returns

Years ago I made a few YoutTube videos for class because I was running behind. I hope to continue to make more in the future. One of the videos I made was about supply, and within the video was the concept of diminishing marginal utility. This is a concept that is hard to make stick with the students, but could not be more important to understanding a number of other concepts within economics. With that said, I tried to develop a lesson that would stick with students and would be something that they would look forward to each year. I found such a lesson a few years back.

I heard of the milk challenge a number of years ago. For those who do not know, a very small percentage can drink a full gallon of milk in an hour. Most of the time it leads to getting sick. I thought that most students would think they could do it and so I set out to see if students were interested. It turns out they were and this lesson was born.

Here is my disclaimer: Only do this lesson if your teaching style, students, parents, and administrators fit to do so. I am in such a situation, but understand that not everyone is. Here is what I do:
1. They already know what marginal and utility mean so we review that.
2. I have 2 students bring a note from home stating that it is ok for their student to participate.
3. I buy, from my seat sell money, 2 dozen donuts. I used to use milk, but there was an incident in which a student got sick all over the bathroom floor, so I switched to donuts because students tend to stop faster.
4. I tell students that on a scale from one to ten that they need to keep track of their utility with every donut they eat. I tell them I need honesty in order for the numbers to give a true sense of their diminishing marginal utility.
5. I take the sheet, plug it into Excel, make a graph and we all see the downward trend of their utility.

This lesson sticks and every year students cannot wait for it. I get asked from day one when are we going to do this.

Again, be careful, but have fun!

Monday, October 24, 2016

PD Webinar From KC Fed

If you have not bookmarked the Kansas City Fed's educators page, you should. There are a number of resources there. They do a number of webinar's on all things economics. This webinar was very well done. Though I do not teach history anymore, I know I would have used this one if I still did. I love history and it really comes alive if economics is taught through a historical lens.  My students always found US history more interesting if there was an economic bent to it.

Take a few minutes and explore both pages, you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Outsourcing and Sweatshop Case Study

One of the many things I love about economics is that we get to talk about all sorts of things happening in the world today. I always tell my students that they should never leave class, thinking to themselves, "I'll never use that in my life." With that said, we also get to venture into controversial issues. I know that we all different ideas as to how to go about doing this. I tell students that I do not care what their opinions are, as long as they know: 1. Evidence to support their view 2. The side of the argument and 3. Understand that both sides have an appeal. We are starting our look at the economic principle of "Voluntary Trade Creates Wealth." In doing so, I like to start by talking about sweatshops and outsourcing.

The topic of sweatshops they literally come into contact with every day. I have them look at where their shirts and shoes were made. Few, if any, have any articles of clothing made in the USA, Canada, or Western Europe. I ask them why... I get a bunch of different answers, but someone always comes up with the fact that labor is more expensive in aforementioned areas. I ask why... Again I get a bunch of different answers, sometimes I get that labor is more expensive because of education and the type of work we do. I then show them the videos above. Again, telling them they need not agree with any of it. They then get the assignment below in which they get to read a little and take a stand and let me know their opinion. I tell them

Thursday, October 13, 2016

FEE Event

This last Tuesday my school was fortunate enough to have FEE come in and host a workshop for students and parents. It was a massive success. Parents were into it just as much as the students were. The workshop was well put together. Students received reading material and even kept the proceeds from the trade game they ran. If you are interested, I would contact them. This took about 6 months to get nailed down, but it was well worth it.

In addition, the FEE website is a great resource for lessons, reading materials, and even courses. If you have not checked it out, I would suggest you do so, you will find it very helpful.

Monday, October 10, 2016

UpFront Magazine

I have written about UpFront Magazine before. It is a magazine subscription from Scholastic and written by the New York Times. The articles are well done, short, and fair. The subscription does not cost much and I can say that between government and economics, there are always at least 2-3 articles per issue that I can use. Even more, if you teach U.S. History. In this month's edition, there is a great story about technology and the ever changing labor market. I have linked the start of the article here. You will need a subscription to read the full article. These can be used for bell ringers, or in the case, a class discussion. It is will worth the few dollars.

There are also a number of other resources relating to the materials found in the magazine on the website, from videos to lesson plans.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Spiral - "Free" Student Collaboration

I have just stumbled across this website called Spiral. It is a student collaboration website that requires no downloading on either the student or teacher's part. The registration is quick and there are three tools to use. I could see this being used as a bell ringer in which students are asked a quick question for discussion and have them respond, then debriefing from there. I also think that could be used for group projects to help keep track of conversations.  

Monday, September 26, 2016


I am always looking for ways to learn about new ways to introduce and use technology into my classroom. I just found EdTech, a company that is focused on professional develop in the digital arena. They have individual courses and the ability to come to you and present on an abundance of technological topics. 

In addition, they also offer books on tech topics and a blog that I am going to start to follow. All in all, this looks like a wonderful resource.