When you describe microeconomics, should the word “fun” top your list?

Students in Michael Ratajczyk’s Principles of Microeconomics course think so.  Throughout the semester they engaged in mini-games or “social experiments” to operate an international market, a farmer’s market community, a supply chain distribution network, and even participate in an auction to complete coloring books.

Microeconomics is all about understanding specific principles or “rules.” Ratajczyk sees his class as a “psychology course about money. We analyze the motivations of businesses and consumers in the marketplace. Microeconomics is the lifeblood of society. Understanding it opens the mind to how the world functions.”

As part of their final exam and showing the broad scope of the course, students developed an economics board game. This is an example of a new learning concept called “gamification,” which recognizes that many students play social media and computer games such as sports, role-playing, strategy and puzzles. Game concepts — scoring, bonuses, trophies, levels and quests — can make learning relevant and fun.

Students devised board games with themes, color schemes, trivia, market cards and instruction manuals that were deeply connected to the course concepts. Topics ranged from college life to hockey team ownership, healthy living to zoo management and more. Students drew from multiple learning disciplines such as art, math, science and psychology.

Ratajczyk was so impressed with his students’ work that he provided them with Non-Disclosure Agreements — which protects the students in case they catch the entrepreneurial itch and try to turn their games into commercial products.

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