Overview

On five consecutive Fridays for 1.5 hours each, I taught this class for the first time in January/February of 2010 to 6th and 7th graders at Laurelhurst School in Portland, OR through Saturday Academy’s in-school LEAP program. In this class I created for 6th-8th graders (but realistically up to 12th or beyond), students work in pairs, playing a variety of board games featuring various economic mechanisms, starting with simpler games like Settlers of Catan and advancing to more complex, like Wealth of Nations. They manage their scarce resources, experience first-hand the importance of capital investment and development, and alter their plans as supply and demand fluctuate.


All images are from BoardGameGeek and are copyright their creators.

Learning and Class Materials

Instead of learning economics through equations and graphs out of textbooks, students engage with simulations of economic mechanisms first-hand. Supply-and-demand affect their production and profits as they struggle to maximize their gains. Students reap the long-term rewards of their earlier capital investments if they have speculated accurately and invested shrewdly. Through this process, they develop a deeper appreciation and experiential understanding of abstract economic principles.

Each class, I provide my students with a handout of some economic concepts with brief definitions (all of which are available in the downloads section). As they play, I prompt them to relate their game-playing and decision-making to these handouts, and vice-versa. I also ask more general questions to get them to think critically about their decisions, like “Why did you choose to..?” and “What goal are you trying to accomplish by..?” Students creatively connect their experience of playing the game to their pre-existing knowledge, as well as to their handouts, to create new knowledge.

Economic concepts in each game (see the handouts in the downloads section for details):

Settlers of Catan

  • Capital
  • Raw Materials
  • Supply and Demand
  • Diversification
  • Scarcity
  • Opportunity Cost

Modern Art

  • Speculation
  • Expected Value
  • Common Value Auction
  • Winner’s Curse
  • Bid Shading
  • Path Dependency

Wealth of Nations

  • Marginal Cost
  • Economy of Scale
  • Scarcity
  • Capital
  • Raw Materials
  • Supply and Demand
  • Opportunity Cost


Settlers of Catan

The Games

My students played three games over the course of five sessions. Two days were spent playing Settlers of Catan twice, one day to Modern Art, and two days playing one game of Wealth of Nations. In Settlers of Catan, players build settlements, roads, and cities with resources that they produce and acquire from trading with each other. What they produce depends on where they build their settlements. In Modern Art, players speculate on the art market as they auction and purchase paintings. In Wealth of Nations, players develop their nation’s industries and trade crucial resources with each other.


Wealth of Nations

Student Evaluations

Both Saturday Academy and I like finding out what students thought of my class, though I’d prefer not to use a survey. Three students liked Modern Art the most, three others Wealth of Nations, and the remainder named Settlers as their favorite game played during the class. All students self-reported on a last-day survey that they a) are more interested in the topic of the class, b) know more about the topic than when before the class, and c) would recommend the class to their friends. And they all described me as “good” or “excellent.” Awwww. Of course, they knew that I would be seeing their surveys, which is guaranteed to bias their responses. But Saturday Academy constructed the survey, not I!

Room for Improvement

Next time, I would like to switch out Modern Art for another game. Of the three, it has the least similarities to the other two, so provides less opportunity for building on what students learned while playing other games. Instead of touching on a broad range of concepts, I would rather go more in-depth with a smaller number, building on their understanding as the class progresses. Each handout would include less concepts on it—I think the amount this time was a little overwhelming for some students. Perhaps next time I’ll use Power Grid or Automobile.

Comments

One Response to “Economics – Board Gaming Class for 6th and 7th Talented and Gifted Students”

  1. The PC Guy on July 21st, 2010 1:36 pm

    This actually dosen’t suprise me, Catan I guess makes a great game for economic students. I never actually thought of it as such, I always just played it for fun. I only whish they had something like this when I was in 7th grade.

Leave a Reply