Simulations and models in the classroom

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As the world of technology changes, so must the way we use technology in the classroom. Using simulations and models in the classroom is one of the ways we can take advantage of technology. Simulations and models can also be implemented without using technology. Proper implementation of these tools is important to ensure efficient teaching practices with economics. Simulations and models, along with economic experiments, are a great way to incorporate inquiry-based learning effectively.

Classroom Incorporation


-During lecture, do not just provide graphs for students. Construct and explain the graphs for the students instead. Having students actively construct graphs makes it easier for them to grasp the abstract concepts behind them.

-Present the same information in different graphs and ask students to compare the two graphs. This comparison forces the students to think critically about the contents of the graph, insuring better comprehension of the material.

-Encourage the use of graphs in problem sets. Using graphs in problem sets forces the student to apply their theoretical knowledge and reinforces comprehension.

Click here for more detailed examples and tips of the use of simulations and graphs in the economics classroom.

Interesting Links:

AEA's page on class experiments and several other useful teaching resources

The Economic Network's page on games, experiments and simulations for economics classrooms

Example classroom simulation lesson plan

Handbook on Economic classroom experiments/simulations


Stern, 2003. In this study, researchers placed participants in 3 different groups that all presented information on stockbroking. One group presented the information without any graphs, the other provided a professionally-drawned graph (passive graphical representation), and the final group drew their own graphs (active graphical representation). All participants were then presented with a set of questions dealing with 'transfer material' to test their ability to apply the material presented to related areas. Researchers found that participants provided with a graph (passive) performed better than those without any graph. Nevertheless, it was found that those asked to draw the graph performed the best. The authors reason that active graphical representations force students to re-organize concepts and create links between disciplines. The authors also accounted for differing academic backgrounds by running a second study in which they divided participants with lower levels of education into the same 3 conditions, but provided both the graph groups with additional instruction. The study supported initial findings as the active graphical representation group also performed the best. Click here to access the study.

Ueseka, Manalo, and Ichikawa, 2007. This study examined the effects of self-constructed diagrams on student's problem solving strategies in math classes in New Zealand and Japan. The goal of the study was to understan why New Zealand students were performing better than Japanese students on global academic assessments (Program for International Student Assessment, PISA). Japanese students were more likely to have "white paper" problems; that is, they were more likely to not even attempt problems than New Zealand students. The researchers hypothesized that this was due to lower spontaneous use of diagrams and models in problem solving by Japanese students. Two random samples of students from New Zealand and Japan were given identical exams and their answers were analyzed for a) correctness and b) use of diagrams. Chi-squared analyses of the data showed that New Zealand students were more likely to have both correct answers and diagrams and Japanese students were more likely to have both incorrect answers and no diagrams (other possible results were correct answers with no diagrams or incorrect answers with diagrams). Participants in the study also completed a survey on how comfortable they felt using diagrams, how much encouragement they received from professors to use diagrams, and how often teachers demonstrated diagram use in class. The results showed significantly higher means for New Zealand students in how often they themselves used diagrams to solve problems and how often they replicated the models done by professors. . In contrast, the Japanese students reported more attention to teachers demonstrating diagram use and a higher incidence of copying down teacher-produced models, as opposed to applying the models to problems of their own. These results may indicate that students are more likely to effectively use diagrams spontaneously if encouraged by teachers to apply them to problems in class rather than if models are presented passively