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Learning About Economics Through Games

  • Faiza Elmasry

Sahith Malyala and Sahil Yedulla are high school seniors who have been neighbors, classmates and friends for most of their lives. One day, Sahith had an idea.

“All of a sudden,” Sahil recalled, “I got a message from Sahith. He was like, 'Hey you want to start an economics club?' I was like, 'You know what, why not?”

Sahith says there were many reasons for starting this club last year.

“They have a lot of STEM-related opportunities like science, technology, engineering and math," Sahith said. “There are a lot of such clubs that are focused to middle schoolers, but we wanted to do economics because we’re both interested in that. And there wasn’t that many economic related organizations or clubs out there."

A Fantastic Idea

They called their club Edunomics, a weekly class teaching interested kids the basics of economics. Sahith and Sahil took their idea to their former instructor David Stephenson, who teaches keyboarding and business skills in middle school.

“I’m deeply touched,” Stephenson said. “I usually get visitors to come back and see me and say 'Hi.' I have never had students come back and say 'this is what I want to do.' I thought it was a fantastic idea.”

Not only did he help them find a space to run the weekly classes, he coached them on how to be good teachers.

“Mr. Stephenson’s help cannot be put in words,” Sahil said. “He helped us so much with this club. I remember after the first lesson he was like, maybe just try to slow down a little bit, just like ease into it.”

Learning through Playing

Sahith Malyala says simplifying global economics, financing and business, and making it fun and interactive is the secret to getting younger students engaged.

“Each week what we have is a five to 10 minute lecture on a new topic,” he said. “Then after that we would really hit hard on making sure they understood through an interactive game.”

These games illustrate the real world applicability of the economic concepts. For example, when the club was studying supply and demand, the students played a game the two friends invented called the Village Game.

“We would split everyone into groups of like two or three,” Sahith explained. “For each group, we would give three kinds of candy like KitKat, Twix and Hershey. We would give each group a random number of these candies. The objective was for each group to trade with the other groups and get the necessary amount of each of the candies in order to win. You need three KitKats, three Twix, and three Hershey kisses in order to win. So through this game, they really started to understand like how interacting with people, they might have something that someone else needs. That kind of game gave them the idea of how supply and demand worked.”

Kids and Economics

Eleven-year old Liz Fikru, an Edunomics member, says she joined the club out of curiosity. “I wanted to understand how people invest in the stock market.”

Anika Kumar, another club member, finds studying economics fun and useful. “If you want to start your own business,” she pointed out, “you need to know all about economics and money, and how to like do it.”

Supporting Young Leaders

Stephenson says Edunomics has been profitable for everyone involved. Older students learn to become leaders and bring change to others’ lives. Middle schoolers are more receptive when high schoolers teach them.

“These guys are close in age,” he observed. “They are almost peer to peer. But they still have a little bit more knowledge. So they can still make it relevant, but it still doesn’t seem that distant. And they bridge from a classroom to the world. And they handle it perfectly. I’ve gotten some emails from the administrator saying thanks for being a mentor. But these guys have taught me probably just as much as I taught them.”

Next year, Sahith and Sahil are leaving for college, but David Stephenson says the club will continue, giving other students an opportunity to teach and learn.

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