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Teaching Economics

Elementary school students typically begin their introduction to economic concepts through what is commonly referred to as “needs and wants.” In its purest sense, “needs and wants” is a character education lesson promoting self-control. Classification of producers and consumers, money, cost, and poverty and wealth are introduced at varying degrees of sophistication during the elementary school experience. Consumer education is a significant part of elementary economics education and often includes simulations of purchasing options and assessment of advertisements, banking, credit cards, and the like.

You might want toconsider the following ways to introduce special education students to economics. Two sample lesson plans are provided for each theme. See Economics Websites for additonal resources.

General Economic Concepts
Ideas for lesson plans:

  • Classification of needs and wants (toys, food), goods and services (clothing, hotels), and resources (land, electricity) using local and everyday examples;
  • simulations of barter and payments (trade toys, buy toys);
  • historical and contemporary presentation of examples of poverty (homeless children, condemned housing), recession (Great Depression).

(EconEdlink) Build Your Community: Students learn about a variety of businesses and their service to a community. They will build a town selecting seven businesses they feel would be the most important to have in order to live in this community.

(EcEdWeb) Homer Price (The Doughnuts): Subjects include capital resources, increasing productivity, law of demand, and quantity of demand.

American Economic Institutions
Ideas for lesson plans:

  • Simulations and calculations of taxes (tax forms), stock market activity (buy and track a stock), bank interest earnings (calculate compound interest);
  • historical and contemporary examples of unions (garment workers and Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, child labor laws) and corporations (history of Ford Motor Company and Andrew Carnegie);
  • work of local charities (United Way);
  • history of money and coin collecting; current news reports of federal spending on roads, schools.

(EconEdlink) Big Banks, Piggy Banks: Students learn that financial institutions protect money from theft and other losses and they also pay interest on money.

(EconEdlink) You Can BANK on This! This is one of four lessons offered at this site that cover the scope of banking

The Economics of Family and Work
Ideas for lesson plans:

  • Classify and describe different types of workers in the community, using parents’ careers; promote the importance of education to career options;
  • feature guest speakers on careers;
  • promote characteristics of successful workers;
  • focus on local economy with field trip to a manufacturer or a farm;
  • create a family budget including income, loans, and expenses;
  • simulate buying and selling with cash, credit cards, checking accounts, home loans, and auto loans using newspaper and online calculators;
  • demonstrate lost opportunities when buying; introduce magazines like Consumer Reports for research;
  • explain government programs for unemployment, retraining, and food.

(Core Knowledge) Money for Entrepreneurs: A minieconomy for the classroom in which students join the workforce.

(EconEdlink)What Do Other People Want To Be? Students graph people’s job choices and identify which jobs would have the most competition.

World Economics
Ideas for lesson plans:

  • Integrate countries’ economies into geography for comparisons (United States, Sweden, and Bangladesh);
  • classify countries by political and economic systems (United States, China, and Ethiopia);
  • use current events to explain Third World wages and U.S. imports, using production of a tennis shoe as an example;
  • compare the United States to other nations in terms of trade (imports and exports).

Lesson Plans

(Education World) And You Thought Gasoline Was Expensive! Students use newspaper ads and charts to compare prices of liquids.

(The Gateway to Educational Materials) Landopoly: A Decision Making Game: A simulation in which students consider both economic and environmental well-being in making land-use decisions.

Go to Economics Websites


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