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Wednesday, September 21, 2016
One of the struggles I have had in the past to how to get students excited about economics from the start of the class. I have found a solution to that problem in the form of a seat sale activity. I tell students when I assign them to bring in the change that their parents, through taxes, have paid for them to be there, but not paid for where they are sitting.
I have not found a way to do this activity on the first day of class instead, I wait until the class rosters have been set and I can have students bring money, I tell them pocket change, into class. I do not make loans, as I tell them I am like the mob, I charge high rates of interest and I never forget. I tell those who forgot to get loans from friends. And so the lesson of economics starts. I run a dutch auction in which I start with a high price and work my way down. The student that makes a sound first, bids that price on that seat. I tell them what I think as to the best seats and the worst. I tell them if they do not want a ton of eye contact, the first row is best, because it is weird to just talk to the first row. There are desks next to my desk, which I tell them those are the worse, because they are the furthest from the door and if they knock over any of my kid's pictures, we are going to have a problem, and so on. Once we get through about half of the seats, I run a lottery, in which I sell a few seats for $.10. I have students write their name and a number between 1-100 and use random.org to pick said number. It is great, when I know students want to sit next to each other, I drive up the cost of the seat. I also leave seats open, and sometimes create a shortage by pulling seats out, or even find broken seats and sell them at lower prices. Either way, it is a good way to learn names, teach some economics, and raise money for other activities I do in class.
We go back to this activity throughout the semester. Supply and demand, institutions (in this case me) mattering, market structures, really it comes up a ton throughout. Parents like it, as it creates interest in the class and I like it as it provides me some small funds for other things I do in class.
Friday, September 16, 2016
I am not sure if anyone out there likes to nerd out on economics as much as I do, but some people might suggest that I have a problem. I really have enjoyed learning just about everything there is to know about pre-Adam Smith, the life and writings of Adam Smith, and finally the lasting impacts of Adam Smith. Through George Mason University, you can learn all you want and much more about the father of economics. I really like the clip above, as Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments is discussed. I enjoy using this with students to talk about and debate what Smith wrote about as to the role of the individual and the role of government. Of course, if you are looking for information about The Wealth of Nations, you can find that at the website listed below.
Have fun Adam Smith nerds!!!!!
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
A good friend of mine, Dr. Thomas Krannawitter, has launched a website that infuses videos and activities. The unit my class is working through has to do with the ideas of productivity, voluntary trade, and wealth creation. The videos are short and engaging and the worksheets are great. There is even an option for online quizzes that work great for a flipped classroom. These videos will certainly lead to some great discussions. This is resources well spent!
A preview of the video asking, "What is poverty" can be found here: http://speakeasyideas.com/upward-preview/
The website to find the product is: http://speakeasyideas.com/video-courses/
Thursday, September 8, 2016
I love teaching economics. There are a number of reasons, one of which is that since it is a social science, we can do social experiments. I tell my students that any time I can mess with them, I am going to take full advantage, and thus, the puzzle game. I do this as part of my introduction to economics unit. In that unit there are six economic principles: 1. People Choose and All Decisions Are Rational 2. All Choice Involves Cost and All Decisions Are Made At The Margin 3.People Respond To Incentives in Predictable Ways and Are Maximizers 4. Voluntary Trade Creates Wealth 5. Government and Economic Institutions Influence Individual Choices and Incentives 5. The Consequence of Choice is Found in the Future. I tell them the rest of macro/micro economics are set on those principles.
Within the "Voluntary Trade Creates Wealth" part, I do this activity. I went out and bought some puzzles, with money I made from my second-day activity which is a seat sale, at Walmart.
These are two sided puzzles that are 108 pieces each. They are challenging, but not impossible. I offer an incentive, a nice tie back to principle #3, which for my students is $5 each to Chick-fil-a, again I use the money from the seat sale. I thought about allowing them to not take one of the reading quizzes we do each week as an incentive as well, but did not this year. I divide students into groups of 4 or less and let them start. Once a student asks to see a picture of the puzzles completed, I project those. As they start to work they realize, normally about half way through, that not all of the pieces of the puzzle are there and that they have pieces from everyone else's puzzle. I tell them that they cannot just go and take puzzle pieces, but instead must find a way to trade in order to finish. I normally have one to two groups finish. This takes a whole 50-minute class. In addition, I always give students a hard time for their lack of good music choices, so as they are playing we listen to music from the 60's-80's.
After the activity, we relate it back to the 6 core principles... What decisions involved cost? Was the incentive enough to get you to participate, if not, what more (marginal benefit) could I have offered to get you more involved? The winning team did receive the gift card, but what did you trade? How is that the same as wealth creation? How were you acting in your own self-interest? Was it selfish to want to win? Was it selfish to give pieces to another group even if you did not trade? And so on. The students really like this activity. It is a great way to engage the whole class to learn that economics is not just something written about in a textbook.