THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT THE ECONOMY
We offer the following assignments, exercises, and tools as resources for faculty to use in the classroom to explore the question – What’s the Economy For, Anyway? While most are designed for college level classes, high school faculty will also find useful materials.
Several of the exercises listed below rely on our Quick Comparative Rankings, where you can quickly find comparative statistical data and rankings among countries of the world with three easy to use databases. Look here to see where countries rank in health, economic, labor, transportation, environmental, military, and many other categories.
Anxiety In America: (No Credit) Quiz and Discussion Tool (MS Word)
This 15-question no-credit quiz about economic challenges in the United States is designed to stimulate thinking and discussion about life in our economic system and how ours compares with others. This quiz is a template that can be updated or otherwise modified as needed. It serves as an excellent introductory activity before engaging other materials related to the “What’s the Economy For, Anyway?” project.
Downloads and external links:
Surveying Public Opinion: Quizzes and Discussion Tool
This exercise serves to probe student opinion about different aspects of the economy. Using real questions from recent national public opinion surveys, educators can tabulate student responses to the questions and compare them to national survey results and facilitate a discussion with students about their responses. While students examine their opinions about the economy, this exercise also gives them the opportunity to think critically about other people’s opinions about the economy as well. This exercise can be built around any survey, but we have provided examples for economic mobility and health.
MS Word Downloads:
What’s Working for Americans? What’s Not? – Student Interview Project (MS Word)
Through interviews with friends, family members, and others, this project allows students to explore Americans’ personal experiences with our health care system (or other systems such as transportation), research what makes the system work the way it does, and analyze the effectiveness of the system. This is a great hands on project that stimulates awareness and serious discussion.
Downloads and links:
3. To see where the U.S. ranks compared to other countries in healthcare or the other categories such as vacation time, transportation systems, etc. link to user-friendly statistical databases in our Quick Comparative Rankings
Are We Number One? – Discovering and Comparing Where the U.S. Ranks
This project allows students to explore common indicators and indexes that measure and rank health, economic, environmental, military, and other measures among countries of the world. The exercise facilitate awareness, discussion, and analysis about these measures and allows students to better understand the comparative standing of the United States. As Americans, many of us tend to think that we are number one at most everything – we’re the richest, we have the strongest military, etc. – but when we look at the data, we see that while we rank highly in some areas, we rank quite low in other areas. The project can serve as a good opening exercise before faculty member introduces other materials relating to the question, What’s the Economy For, Anyway?
Downloads and links:
Economic Systems Elsewhere: A Comparative Essay Assignment
This project fosters research, analytical, and writing skills and allows students to examine the lives of citizens of other so-called advanced economy states on an everyday basis and/or over the long run. By looking at case studies for the given country as well as comparative statistics, students can examine how everyday life in that country compares with life in other advanced economy states, including the United States. This can also be adapted as a group presentation assignment.
Additional Teaching Resources
The following classroom tools and resources have been developed by others. We think they are good tools for helping your students ask – What’s the Economy For, Anyway?
Teaching Modules on Social and Environmental Issues in Economics
The Global Development and Environmental Institute’s (GDAE) teaching modules are designed for use as supplements in undergraduate-level courses and they are available in Adobe Acrobat format. The modules are downloadable free of charge after completion of a brief registration form. Sample topics include: the economics of global climate change; environmental justice; income, race, and health; and consumption and the consumer society.
Teaching Economics as if People Mattered
This set of five online lesson plans is geared towards high school economics classes. They are sponsored by United for a Faire Economy (UFE), “a national organization which raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermine the economy, corrupt democracy, deepen the racial divide, and tear communities apart.”
The National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) maintains this database of “ classroom tested, Internet-based economic lesson materials for K-12 teachers and their students.” It is possible to browse the lessons by title, grade, standard, and lesson plan type.
Games Economists Play: Non-Computerized Classroom-Games for College Economists
“This web site is a resource for instructors of economics who would like to use non-computerized economic experiments (games) in their classrooms. The bulk of the website consists of an extensively annotated and hyperlinked compilation of more than 170 classroom games, most of which can be played within one class period. The purpose of the games is to help teach fundamental micro and macroeconomic concepts.”