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TFAS Offers Online Economics Lessons and Resources for High School Students

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As the spread of COVID-19 causes high schools across the country to close their doors, TFAS is providing resources to help our teachers and parents continue the important task of educating our nation’s future leaders.

View our Economics Lessons of the Week

Many online lessons contain video demonstrations to help you teach concepts. This one is from the activity, “The Bread Market.”

Through our high school programming division – the Foundation for Teaching Economics (FTE) – TFAS offers a plethora of online lesson plans, readings, handouts, video demonstrations and hands-on activity guides to teach the “economic way of thinking” in engaging and relatable ways.

These resources include:

Economic Reasoning Propositions: The Foundation for Teaching Economics’ Economic Reasoning Propositions (ERPs) are a guide to the “economic way of thinking.” They empower students to view the world through an economic lens and provide a tool kit to solve economic mysteries, understand social phenomenon and make sense of current events.

TFAS High School economic lessons demonstrate how economics is part of our every day lives.

Lesson Plan Database: This searchable database enables teachers and parents to find lessons and educational activities by topic, Economic Reasoning Propositions (ERPs) and by content standards. All lessons are correlated to the National Voluntary Content Standards in economics, the Common Core, and when possible, to the individual state standards. Our searchable interface facilitates alignment of lesson content and activities for standards- and mastery-based instruction.

Economic Barometer: This series of benchmarks provides an overview of the U.S. federal government’s latest quarterly economic data. Each one is accompanied by its definition and explanation of its composition and use. These benchmarks, especially in combination, are intended to help teachers and students and others readily locate and observe the fundamentals of the evolving national economy.

In the coming days and weeks, we will highlight and promote these lessons with teachers and parents within our network. Please, if you know of a teacher or parent who is educating high school students, share these resources with them as well.

Thank you for helping us continue our important mission through these trying times. We look forward to rising to the occasion and finding new and innovative ways to teach economic reasoning to our rising generations.

Apply for High School Economics Programs

Applications are now open for a number of Summer 2020 FTE programs for high school teachers and students. Please see below for more information and to begin your application today.

We are continuing to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19. The safety of our students, faculty and staff are our first priority. Some FTE programs have been moved to online only. Learn more.

High School Economics Lesson of the Week

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As the spread of COVID-19 causes high schools across the country to close their doors, TFAS is providing resources to help our teachers and parents continue the important task of educating our nation’s future leaders. Each week, we’ll feature a different lesson from our high school programming division – the Foundation for Teaching Economics (FTE)

Economic Growth and Scarcity

In this lesson, students are introduced to the concept of economic growth through the story of human progress and changing standards of living over time. Video clips, historical examples and a mini-activity engage students in the discovery of the institutions that foster economic growth.

Opportunity Cost and Incentives

This lesson uses examples, videos and three mini-activities to teach concepts such as opportunity cost, incentives, pricing, marginal benefit and cost, rationing, supply, demand and sunk cost. Downloadable lesson guides and slides provide instructions.

Open Markets

During this lesson, students make connections to their real-world interactions in markets to better understand the role competition and prices play in guiding market outcomes. Fun video clips and a mini-activity help students discover how discover how open competitive markets can promote economic growth.

Markets in Action

This lesson has two goals. The first is to expand students’ understanding of markets by discussing government-imposed frictions that affect the market-clearing price and quantity. The second is to involve students in analyzing examples of economic reasoning using problems and activities. Through two optional mini activities and a 1 vs 100 Game Show, students practice applying the tools of supply and demand analysis real-world scenarios.

Labor Markets

The focus of this lesson is on the choices made by buyers and sellers of labor services, and the factors and constraints that affect these choices including wages, technology and demand. Downloadable lesson guides and slides provide instructions.

Incentives, Innovations, and Roles of Institutions

This lesson uses examples, video clips and a risk-reward mini activity to teach the relationship between innovation and economic growth. Downloadable lesson guides and slides provide instructions.

Property Rights: Is the Environment Different?

In this lesson, students apply the tools of economic analysis to environmental problems. Through the analysis of historical and contemporary environmental problems, students discover the value of looking at environmental issues as problems of incentives and institutions rather than blaming them on “bad people doing bad things.”

Setting the Rules: Costs and Benefits of Government Action

This lesson gives students the opportunity to apply the economic way of thinking to the political arena. After exploring differences between private and public choice they will apply public choice theory to understand why “bad economics” often makes for “good politics.”

Money and Inflation

In this lesson, students learn that anything that performs the functions of money can be money (even macaroni!). As they use their macaroni to bid on items during an auction, they learn that the value of money depends on the quantity of money relative to the quantity of goods and services they can buy with that money.

International Markets

In this lesson, students apply the model of supply and demand to international markets for goods and services and currencies. Interactive online resources, videos and discussion of contemporary trade issues connect the students to the larger (and sometimes invisible) world in which they exchange.

The Magic of Markets

This lesson involves students in a trading simulation designed to illustrate a complex marketplace in which goods and services are traded. Students use this experience to investigate the conditions that encourage or discourage trade among individuals. Downloadable guides, videos and a group activity introduce new concepts such as trade, voluntary exchange, costs, benefits and property rights.

In The Chips

This week's lesson is "In The Chips," an activity that simulates a market for computer chips. Students, acting as buyers and sellers, will experience the competitive nature of markets. As a result, they will see how competition influences the price of goods and the decisions of buyers and sellers. Students will be introduced to concepts including supply, demand, equilibrium price (or market clearing price) and competition.

The Job Jungle

This activity allows students to experience a labor market firsthand and ultimately discover how wages are determined. A video, handouts and teacher guide explain the set up and goals for the activity. Students will explore labor supply and demand, why profit-maximizing employers will not offer more than the value of a worker’s marginal product, and the opportunity cost a worker faces when considering whether to accept a wage offer.

Cartels and Competition

This week's lesson is "Cartels and Competition." Through this activity, students experience the interdependent decision-making characteristic of oligopolies, and see firsthand the impact that incentives and competition have on the market. A downloadable guide, instructional video and handouts help instructors facilitate the activity.

The Wheat Activity

In this simulation, students act as workers producing wheat. The students will use their available capital (pencils) to produce wheat by writing the word “w-h-e-a-t” as many times on the piece of paper (land) as possible in a given time period. Each round more students are added to each team which will slow down production and show how even as total product increases the marginal productivity of workers does not increase at that same rate. Students will use this activity and marginal decision making to understand how companies make decisions to hire based on marginal productivity.

The Fish Activity

The activity introduces the "free-rider problem" that occurs when resources are owned in common – what we refer to in economics as "the tragedy of the commons." In this simulation, students act as fisherman who harvest fish for profit and incentives. Students will explore economic concepts including, "the tragedy of the commons," property rights and market approaches to conservation and environmentalism. This lesson teaches how well established property rights increase the value of investments that pay off in the future.

Farmers & Fishers

In this group activity, which can be used for in-person or online instruction, students are given role cards and must play the game as either a farmer or fisher, with both parties looking to harvest for profit. In the scenario, we imagine farmers own the water rights where they must grow crops and where the fishers must harvest fish. The farmers’ decision on whether or not to irrigate with the water could hurt the fishers and help the farmers in a “low water year.” Students review U.S. Water Rights law and are tasked with coming up with solutions that will benefit both parties. The key takeaway from the lesson is the importance of property rights.

A Pollution Solution

In this activity, students acting as owners of companies emitting proscribed substances engage in a market for tradable pollution credits. So-called “cap-and-trade” programs have been used successfully to meet pollution standards while incorporating incentives to find least-cost solutions.

Foreign Currency and Foreign Exchange

In this simulation, students are given copies of Saudi Arabian Riyals, and must find a way to convert them into "Classroom Bucks" in order to purchase candy. Through this activity, students learn that in a foreign exchange market, importers often must obtain the currency of the exporter’s country to purchase the goods to be imported.

The Bread Market

This lesson simulates a bread market that undergoes an unpredicted shock and the emergent order that follows. Over the course of the simulation, students acting as buyers and sellers develop expectations about the price of goods in the market. Once a demand shock occurs, students must use their knowledge of past price predictions along with their own willingness to buy or sell to experience how the market adjusts to an increase in scarcity.

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