Classroom Experiments & Games
Many students respond well to being involved in a game and the experience can fix a concept vividly in their minds. We have guides and, in some cases, printable materials to help you introduce games to your classes.
Experiments and Games in Context
Economic Classroom Experiments is a chapter of the Handbook for Economics Lecturers with advice and examples.
Simulations, Games and Role-Play is an older Handbook chapter, discussing why, when and how to use games or simulations in teaching economics, with examples.
Classroom Experiments, Games and Role-Play a series of experiments and games from our Reflections on Teaching section.
IREE Volume 9 Issue 2 was a special issue on economic classroom experiments, including review papers as well as details of individual experiments.
Using Experiments and Activities in the Principles Class by John Eaton describes a number of games, used analogously to lab sessions for physical science students
John Sloman summarises seven games that can be used to increase student motivation (Powerpoint, with links to handouts and other materials)
Jon Guest describes using classroom experiments as a more active method of teaching microeconomics in a first-year context and an intermediate context.
The FEELE team have created an extensive guide to Economic Classroom Experiments, including The Twenty Pound Auction. It's part of Wikiversity, so you can log in to add your own experiences and variations.
Games Economists Play: Non-Computerized Classroom-Games for College Economics is an online guide to 180 games both for micro principles and macro principles (external link).
Health Economics education (HEe) lists several classroom experiments for teaching Health Economics.
The International Trade Game: Using just scissors, pencils, rulers and paper, large numbers of students experience a simulation of international trade.
The Tennis Balls Game: students form a "production line" to illustrate diminishing marginal returns. This is one of a number of games used by Mary Hedges and colleagues, including the oligopoly game (favourite TV show), Money Supply Game and the Restaurant Game (an auction market).
A separate page discusses some games that can be used with school students, for example on open days. These include the public goods game and rent-seeking game (both using playing cards), auctioning a £1 coin (illustrating sunk cost and marginal cost) and a public goods game with altruistic punishment.
Some journal articles describing classroom experiments and games
- A classroom experiment on the specific factors model by Yu-Hsuan Lin, 2021
"students act as decision-makers in an economy comprising two goods and three factors, and each is asked to maximize the value of marginal production by allocating his/her labor force between the two sectors."
- The Microfinance Game: Experiencing the dynamics of financial inclusion in developing contexts by Javier Sierra and María-José Rodríguez-Conde, 2021
"an online role-play simulation in which the students represent several stakeholders from the microfinance sector in Uganda"
- The potential of simulations for developing multiple learning outcomes: The student perspective by Javier Sierra, 2020
"a simulation in which students represent different countries and carry out international exchanges to implement a set of public policies"
- A classroom experimental game to improve the understanding of asymmetric common-pool resource dilemmas in irrigation water management by Stefano Farolfi and Katrin Erdlenbruch, 2020
"A hand-run experimental game that combines a ludic learning approach with the rigorous testing of hypotheses. Multiple concepts about CPR management can be analysed simultaneously"
- Using classroom games to teach core concepts in market design, matching theory, and platform theory by Melati Nungsari and Sam Flanders, 2020
"We explore some of the core concepts in understanding market design, matching theory, and platforms, and outline three classroom games with detailed instructions for instructors who may want to explore these topics in their own classes and curricula"
- For want of a chair: Teaching price formation using a cap and trade game by Stefano Carattini, Eli P. Fenichel, Alexander Gordan and Patrick Gourley, 2020
"Students can learn several important tenets of economics by playing an in-class game based on musical chairs, which creates a market for pollution using a mobile app or paper-based interaction."
- A demand and supply game exploring global supply chains by Bei Hong, 2020
Building on other market games, but introducing global supply chain management (GSCM) features "suitable for introductory economics courses and for class sizes of 30 to 50" 35-45 minutes
- A classroom experiment on the causes and forms of bounded rationality in individual choice by Anna Rita, Adrian Gourlay and Chris M. Wilson, 2020
"the experiment shows how a range of factors can prompt bounded rationality and illustrates how it can manifest itself in the form of different behaviors." 40-50 minutes to conduct & debrief
- An exchange rate risk experiment with multiple currencies by Paul Johnson and James Staveley-O’Carroll, 2020
"Student teams compete by managing virtual portfolios of six foreign currencies over a period of several weeks. Trading requires a few minutes in class. Students gain an understanding of currency movements, financial risk, and portfolio management."
- Microeconomic education, strategic incentives, and gender: An oligopoly classroom experiment with social interaction by José Antonio García-Martínez, Carlos Gutiérrez-Hita, and Joaquín Sánchez-Soriano, 1999
"In our setting, students may interact in the classroom (indeed, everywhere) prior to submitting quantity bids to a virtual market. [i]nformation exchange among students was expected to take place (as it did)."
- A two-round in-class trading game on the principle of comparative advantage and the theory of reciprocal demand by Bei Hong, 2019
"Each group is assigned a country with hypothetical productivity [...] Students simulate the trading of goods between countries with the objective of achieving the best possible terms of trade."
- Can homo economicus be an altruist? A classroom experimental method by Tomasz Kopczewski and Iana Okhrimenko, 2019
"The classroom experiment utilizes the original Giving According to GARP experimental methodology in order to create storytelling about human nature."
- The psychology of sunk cost: A classroom experiment by Louis-Philippe Sirois, 2019.
"an active learning activity that allows students to witness how their own judgment can be biased" 30-50 minutes, 50 students or more per class
- Equilibrium with capacity-constrained firms: A classroom experiment by Gayane Barseghyan and Aram Grigoryan, 2019
"a two-stage classroom experiment to illustrate convergence to long-run equilibrium in a market where price-taking firms are capacity-constrained" "The game and discussion session require about 60 to 75 minutes."
- A classroom experiment in monetary policy by John Duffy and Brian C. Jenkins, 2019
"a simple version of a New Keynesian model suitable for courses in intermediate macroeconomics and money and banking. Students play as either the central bank or members of the private sector."
- A dynamic semester-long social dilemma game for economic and interdisciplinary courses by Silvia Secchi & Simanti Banerjee, 2019
"a semester-long game to teach the role of economics in natural resources management", requiring 5 to 10 minutes per session.
- An endogenous equilibrium game on traffic congestion externalities by Leah H. Palm-Forster and Joshua M. Duke, 2019
75-minute exercise "to demonstrate how congestion externalities are generated, the effects on private and social welfare, and how appropriately priced tolls can address congestion externalities."
- The great American health care debate: A classroom game to explore risk and insurance by Kelly Grogan, 2018
"provides students with a thorough understanding of some of the [health insurance] policy options under debate, in addition to demonstrating the classic problem of adverse selection."
- Let's make a deal in the classroom: Institutional solutions to the Monty Hall Dilemma by Brandon Dupont and Yvonne Durham, 2018.
"In addition to demonstrating the anomaly, the experiment can be used to introduce students to some institutional modifications that have been shown to ameliorate it."
- A college athletics recruiting game to teach the economics of rent-seeking by Justin R. Roush and Bruce K. Johnson, 2018.
"Students engage in an effort-based lottery, i.e., recruiting to sign a blue-chip prospect. The winner gets the prize—the player's marginal revenue product in excess of his grant in aid. The authors demonstrate the game's use in a principles course, but it is easily adaptable to other courses."
- The automobile industry and new trade theory: A classroom experiment by Steven Yamarick, 2018.
"[F]or undergraduate international economics and trade courses. There are five rounds in the experiment, starting with autarky in the 1960s and ending with the Great Recession of 2008–9."
- An introductory microeconomics in-class experiment to reinforce the marginal utility/price maximization rule and the integration of modern theory by David G. Raboy, 2017
"The experiment that is the subject of this paper was conducted in a 200-level Principles of Microeconomics course, with 23 students."
- A classroom game on a negative externality correcting tax: Revenue return, regressivity, and the double dividend by Joshua M. Duke & David M. Sassoon, 2017
"A classroom game that uses numerical examples to explain, specifically, how a social planner might optimally return emission tax revenue. [...] which conveys some of the political economy challenges of adopting a new tax-with-revenue-return policy. The problem requires approximately 75 minutes of class time"
- A classroom experiment with bank equity, deposit insurance, and bailouts by Denise Hazlett, 2016
"Students see how low bank equity requirements can interact with deposit insurance to encourage excessive risk-taking. [...] It takes about 45 minutes to run and debrief, and requires no computerization."
- A classroom market for extra credit: A semester-long experiment by James Staveley-O'Carroll, 2016.
Using extra course credit as a kind of currency, students learn about market-clearing price.
- When do first-movers have an advantage? A Stackelberg classroom experiment by Robert Rebelein and Evsen Turkay, 2016.
A two-firm game to teach first-mover and second-mover advantage
- Price discrimination: A classroom experiment by Paula Aguiló, Maria Sard & Maria Tugores, 2016.
An exercise in distinguishing first-, second-, and third-degree price discrimination
- Airing Your Dirty Laundry: A Quick Marketable Pollution Permits Game for the Classroom by Jill L. Caviglia-Harris & Richard T. Melstrom, 2015.
A very quick-to-run game involving tradeable permits
- Simulating Price-Taking by Lucas M. Engelhardt, 2015.
Repeated rounds teach students about perfect competition
- Examining Theories of Distributive Justice with an Asymmetric Public Goods Game by Stephen J. Schmidt, 2015.
"Players choose whether to contribute tokens to a group investment or retain them for a private investment which produces a lower return. [...] The ability to distribute the group return asymmetrically creates an entangling link between efficiency on the one hand and ideas about fairness, rights, and equality on the other."
- A model to assess students’ social responsibility behavior within a classroom experiment by Amalia Rodrigo-González, María Caballer-Tarazona, 2015
Ultimatum game/ dictator game and debate within a 90-minute class "encouraging students to reflect on and discuss a range of social values such as respect, solidarity, and social justice"
- Adverse Selection in Health Insurance Markets: A Classroom Experiment by Ashley Hodgson, 2014.
A short experiment to convey how asymmetric information manifests in health markets
- Teaching economics with a bag of chocolate: A classroom experiment for elementary school students by Nicholas G. Rupp, 2014.
Uses exchanges to illustrate the value of trade and the law of demand
- Veconlab Classroom Clicker Games: The Wisdom of Crowds and the Winner's Curse by A. J. Allen Bostian & Charles A. Holt, 2013.
Students are shown a jar of marshmallows and use clickers to place bids that represent their guesses as to the number of marshmallows, experiencing a winner's curse. Computerised version is available, which can be run in ten minutes.
- Choosing Partners: A Classroom Experiment by Carl T. Bergstrom, Theodore C. Bergstrom & Rodney J. Garratt, 2013. Simple, introductory exercise that illustrates two-sided matching and the idea of a stable assignment
- Using a Simple Contest to Illustrate Mechanism Design by Calvin Blackwell, 2011.
Illustrates the effects of incentive structure on effort using a 50-minute session.
- Exploring Strategic Behavior in an Oligopoly Market Using Classroom Clickers by Keith Brouhle, 2011
"Using classroom clickers to communicate pricing decisions, students explore first-hand the strategic nature of decision-making in an oligopoly market. Students see the diversity of equilibrium outcomes that can be supported in an oligopoly setting and better understand the conditions that lead to one equilibrium over another."
- Illustrating Environmental Issues by Using the Production-Possibility Frontier: A Classroom Experiment by Nancy Carson & Panagiotis Tsigaris, 2011
"Resources are allocated toward the production of two goods—widgets and environmental cleanup. [...] Various production possibilities are observed as resources are reallocated between the two products."
- Teaching Bank Runs with Classroom Experiments by Dieter Balkenborg, Todd Kaplan & Timothy Miller, 2011
Hand-run and computerised versions of a game, taking less than an hour including debrief, illustrating how bank runs can emerge from rational decisions.
- A Bluff-Bidding Exercise by J. Patrick Meister, 2011
"An auction based on the idea of a firm making “bluff bids” (i.e., not bidding to win, but bidding simply to drive up the price that the eventual winner pays)."
- Persuasive and Informative Advertising: A Classroom Experiment by Beth A. Freeborn & Jason P. Hulbert, 2011
"The student is placed in the role of a monopolist and must choose the optimal number of advertisements and a price to charge. Students analyze the effects of advertising on price, quantity, and consumer surplus."
- The Pollution Game: A Classroom Game Demonstrating the Relative Effectiveness of Emissions Taxes and Tradable Permits by Jay R. Corrigan, 2011
"Divides students into three groups—a government regulatory agency and two polluting firms—and allows them to work through a system of uniform command-and-control regulation, a tradable emissions permit framework, and an emissions tax."
- Understanding Credit Risk: A Classroom Experiment by Maroš Servátka & George Theocharides, 2011
75-minute classroom market trading two kinds of bond, to teach about credit risk, pricing of risk, risk aversion and related concepts
- Status spending races, cooperative consumption and voluntary public income disclosure by Damian Diamonov and Shane Sanders, 2011
Students choose how to spend a budget on two goods, to learn about the effects of relative income and the effect of publicly disclosed income.
- Tradable Discharge Permits: A Student-Friendly Game by Amy W. Ando & Donna Ramirez Harrington, 2010. See also The tradable pollution permit exercise: Three additional tools by Michael A. McPherson & Michael L. Nieswiadomy, 2014
Simple form of a Tradeable Discharge Permit game ot illustrate "the relative cost-effectiveness of a permit system over a uniform standard, the nature of permit market equilibrium, and the comparative advantages of different regulatory regimes."
- Discovering Economics in the Classroom with Experimental Economics and the Scottish Enlightenment by Taylor Jaworski, Vernon Smith and Bart Wilson, 2010
Three classroom experiments used to illustrate Adam Smith's ideas about markets, each of which are hand-run but use one computer to calculate outcomes. The three are 1) Specialisation and exchange, 2) Double oral auction, 3) One-shot extensive-form trust game.
- Teaching Opportunity Cost in an Emissions Permit Experiment by Charles Holt, Erica Myers, Markus Wrake, Dallas Burtraw and Svante Mandell, 2010
"[A]n individual choice experiment that can be used to teach students how to correctly account for opportunity costs in production decisions. Students play the role of producers that require a fuel input and an emissions permit for production. Given fixed market prices, they make production quantity decisions based on their costs."
- Patents and R&D: a Classroom Experiment by Amy Diduch, 2010
"This classroom experiment provides students with an introduction to two competing models of the impact of patents on R&D: the ‘winner-take-all’ model contains incentives for excessive research effort and the ‘knowledge spillover’ model contains incentives for free riding."
- To Work or Not to Work … That is the Question: Labour Market Decisions in the Classroom by Arlene Garces-Ozanne and Phyll Esplin, 2010
"a simple classroom experiment for first-year university students of introductory economics, about participation in a competitive labour market. The students are designated as workers and [in] each period representing different conditions in the labour market, workers must decide whether or not to offer their services based on the information they have at hand."
- A Classroom Inflation Uncertainty Experiment by Denise Hazlett, 2008.
Uses a double oral auction credit market to illustrate effects of inflation uncertainty.
- A Classroom Investment Coordination Experiment by Denise Hazlett, 2007.
Gets students to privately choose firm's levels of investment, illustrating coordination failure
- Portfolio Construction in Global Financial Markets by Dallas Brozik and Alina M. Zapalska, 2007.
Describes a portfolio management game that can be played in a single session
- Market Forces and Price Ceilings by Jamie Kruse et al. 2005 Describes a market to illustrate the effects of rent controls.
- Strategic Voting and Coalitions by James Stodder, 2005.
Uses a classroom game to illustrate the Concordet Voting Paradox.
- Using Context in Classroom Experiments: A Public Goods Example by John Bernard and Daria Bernard, 2005.
Describes a game played on paper to introduce the concept of a public good.
- A Search-Theoretic Classroom Experiment with Money by Denise Hazlett 2003.
Presents a market game in which one commodity emerges as a medium of exchange. Hazlett's site has details of six non-computerized classroom experiments for undergraduate macroeconomics courses.
Computerised Games and Experiments
Charles Holt's VEconLab is a set of 35 interactive games that can be configured by lecturers and played by students using only their web browsers. Each game has extensive instructions.
Econport is another site allowing you to run a variety of experiments using the web. They provide extensive documentation on how to integrate the experiments into courses.
Finance and Economics Experimental Laboratory at Exeter (FEELE), at Exeter University, has created 13 online games. You can register for free to create, customise and run economic experiments online. Jon Guest's case study describes using one of these experiments in a class.
Economics-games.com is another site along similar lines. It has 14 simulations for students to play on their own, and 48 multiplayer games that lecturers can configure and share via a web link. The site is free and students can play from computers, phones or other internet devices.
LIONESS is a free web-based platform for interactive online experiments, developed at the University of Nottingham and University of Passau. The control panel lets experimenters design and conduct experiments. Participants take part via personalised links.
oTree is a framework for coding multi-player experiments and games, based on the Python language. Experiments can be created by writing code and/or assembling components in a point-and-click interface. They can be run on the Web or downloaded. There is a long list of experiments and games created by the community.
ClassEx, based at the University of Passau, is a widely-used platform for online surveys and classroom experiments. Students make their decisions via their computers or mobile devices, and the outcomes appear on the lecturer's computer for them to present to the group. The CORE Project have released a video of a lecture by Cloda Jenkins (UCL) in which Prof Jenkins incorporates three ClassEx games.
Ariel Rubinstein's site, Didactic Web-Based Experiments in Game Theory, has free online games and suggestions for using them in class. "After having registered, a teacher, will be able to allocate problems to the students and get basic statistics on their responses. [...] My goal as a teacher is to deliver a loud and clear message that game theoretic models are not meant to supply predictions of strategic behavior in real life."
MobLab is a classroom gaming and polling system that takes a paid subscription per student per class. Its dozens of games can be browsed by course and can be configured by the lecturer. Its grade book can sync to VLE software.
The Teach Better podcast has an episode from July 2017 in which Matt Olczak of Aston Business School discusses using economics-games.com and VEconLab, and Bob Gazzale of the University of Toronto discusses his use of MobLab.
zTree, the Zurich Toolbox for Readymade Economic Experiments, is a client/server software package that runs locally on Windows computers (including virtual machines), rather than over the Web.
Kiviq is a dedicated educational tool for running double auctions in a classroom setting.
For a stock market game, see HowTheMarketWorks.com.
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