Author: Lori Alden
Billion grains of salt.
It's hard for most of us to visualize
the large sums used in macroeconomics. You can help your
students do so by setting up a display case holding a billion grains
of salt in your classroom. According to this
website, a grain of ordinary table salt weighs .00006 grams and
is .3 mm on a side. A billion grains, then, would weigh 60
kilograms, or 132 pounds. Since a cubic centimeter contains
2,700 grains, you'd need to find a container large enough to hold
370,370 cc, or about 13 cubic feet. A 100-gallon aquarium tank
should work nicely. (Note: I haven't tried this myself
yet. If you do, please send me a picture.)
Game Show Buzzers. These are great for playing classroom
Jeopardy or other speed games. The first buzzer pushed
lights up and locks out the buzzers of the other
contestants. You can get a Funbuzzer
system for $150 to $200, or make your own (click here
for blueprints). The cheapest buzzers I've found are in old
Electric Jeopardy games, which are sometimes sold on eBay. They
come with a cheap lock-out buzzer system. They don't work very
well--contestants have to depress their buttons firmly in order
to get a dim light to go on for a few seconds--but they're adequate
for infrequent use.
Mistake stamps. After
years of writing the same comments over and over on students'
papers, I had the following "mistake stamps" made up by a
mail order address stamp company:
- A change in the price of a good
doesn't cause its supply curve or demand curve to shift.
- You're confusing money with
- You're confusing saving with
The surprising thing was that after I
introduced the stamps to my students, I found I rarely needed to use
them. After I return exams, students sometimes ask if anyone
- It's a Wonderful Life This Jimmy Stewart classic
has a wonderful scene about a run on a bank during the Great
- Star Trek: First Contact There's an
interesting scene in the film that your students might enjoy
discussing. After traveling through an inter-temporal vortex
to the 21st century, Captain Picard shows one of our
contemporaries, Lily Sloane, around his ship. She's awed by
its size and
wants to know how much it cost. Picard smiles
smugly and explains that people in the 24th century don't use
money because they're no longer interested in the acquisition of
wealth for its own sake. Show your students
the clip and discuss whether that's why we have money.
- The Wizard of Oz.
Raffle tickets. During the semester, I
give out raffle
tickets as prizes to students and draw for prizes during the last
week of classes. You can buy big rolls of them at party supply
stores. I prefer the single-ticket rolls to the double-ticket
rolls (which allows the ticket holder to keep one ticket and submit
the other). Since students often lose tickets, I find it's
best to have them write their names on the tickets and turn them in
soon after they've won them. If you use double tickets, some
students misunderstand the procedure and turn in both tickets.
Prizes: shredded money (you
can buy big bags of it on eBay), Euro coins, hyperinflation
notes, and old
certificates for stocks and bonds.
Money to Pay Your Bills by Matthew Lesco and Mary Ann
TV commercials pitching
this book give the impression that there is indeed such a
thing as a free lunch. Disabuse your students of
this idea by having them research and report on some of
the government giveaways described in the book.
Comics: You can get a
set of free
comic books about money, banking, and trade from the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York.
hands" make perfect paperweights for economics
classrooms. I've also super-glued them onto the bases
of old trophies to make classroom awards.
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