• Aplia In Class Award Demo

    Kelvin Wong

    Description of technique: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xHZmvfIdt8
    Video of technique in action:

    I am an instructor for Economics 1101 at the University of Minnesota, Twins Cities. I have been in this role for the last two years. In the last couple of years, I have taught a relatively smaller class in the Fall (about 70-100 students) and a bigger lecture in the Spring (about 350-550 students). In either setting, I found it extremely helpful to keep the students engaged – whether it is through activities, discussions, or telling stories. In this document, I hope to specifically focus on how I come up with activities for the class to keep students engaged, and give an example of this in teaching game theory.

    If there was anything I learned while I was an undergraduate, it is that my attention span doesn’t last that long when a lecturer is just talking. In fact, most of the time, I fell asleep in class because I just lost focus for a brief moment, and failed to re-engage myself into the lecture. My guess is that many undergraduates today are in a similar boat – it’s not that they don’t want to learn, it’s just that they can’t focus well enough. Thus, I take an extra few minutes while lesson planning to think of creative activities that I can do in class that will help me in keeping the students focus, and at the same time get an idea that I am teaching across.

    One thing that I have also learned over the years is this: If you involve students from the class, everyone will pay attention. It’s strange, but whenever a fellow classmate is up in front of the classroom, everyone stops what they are doing and focuses to the front. It’s something about their peers being up, or because they can relate better with a fellow classmate, or it’s a break from me talking. Whatever it is, I have a golden opportunity to pass on an important concept to my class.

    To give some examples of these in-class activities involving students: an auction to introduce supply and demand, having students help me with a giant rubber-band to discuss elasticity, having three students be potential owners of the hometown NFL team and another ten or so students be potential ticket-buyers to illustrate the impact of pricing on quantity for a monopoly, playing a popular game show to analyze game theory, and more.

    I now want to focus specifically on the last activity that I mentioned, the game show and game theory, mostly because it is my favorite activity in the class and students have a lot of fun learning about something very important. I start off by introducing the game. There was a British game show called Golden Balls, where four contestants go through a series of rounds to build up the amount of money that the winner could take home. Two contestants are also eliminated throughout the game, leaving two for the final activity, called “split or steal.” In split or steal, each contestant have two balls in front of them. Inside one ball is the word “Split,” and inside the other is the word “Steal.” A contestant would know which one of his ball is “Split” or “Steal” because he can look inside the balls before the round starts. Then, the two contestants can talk with each other for about a minute, at the end of which they must pick a ball to play. If both players picked their “Split” ball, then they split the winnings and each go home with money. However, if one person picks “Split” and the other “Steal,” then the person who picked “Steal” will get all the winnings. Lastly, if both pick “Steal,” then both go home with nothing.

    After introducing the game, I have students come up to play the game, with money on the line. We then analyze whether the students’ decisions were in line with what we expected them to do, based on game theory. To make things line up with the framework that we discussed in class, I also assume that there is a negative payout from picking “Split” when someone picks “Steal,” since on top of making no money, there is a psychological hurt of being cheated.

    Following the games with students, I show the portion of the actual game show, and go through the payouts and have the class predict what will happen. Turns out there are some interesting twists that the class does not expect in these shows! For example, in one video, a man told the other contestant that he will pick “Steal” no matter what, and will split the winning with him after the show. Thus, he will trying to get the other person to pick “Split,” because if “Steal” was picked, both would steal and both will end up with nothing. In the end, they both ended up picking “Split.” This was a great example of the “first mover’s advantage” concept that we go over in class, so I tie it back to that concept.

    I believe a good part of why I am so excited each year to teach game theory is because the class is so engaged while learning it. I hope, on a small scale, that this will help other instructors in making game theory engaging for the class. On a larger scale, I hope that I have given a good reason why involving the class often will lead to a better learning environment for the students.


  • Top 6 Finalists

    The Board votes are in – now it’s your turn help choose this year’s winners!

    Alice Louise Kassens
    Jadrian Wooten
    Jared Boyd
    Kelvin Wong
    Patrick Schmid
    Sherri Wall