Share the Wealth: New Online Elementary and Secondary Courses on Decision Making

The St. Louis Fed's Econ Lowdown announces two new courses, including their first-ever elementary online course. Both courses are an excellent way to introduce your students to the economic way of thinking.

Once upon a decision
The study of economics involves learning about how we must weigh the benefits and costs of the choices we make in life. We must make decisions, both big and small, on a daily basis. The earlier that young people learn how to make a good decision, the better their decision-making skills will be throughout their lives. In this short course for elementary students, your students will read and listen to a story about Ella, who has decisions to make. While most of her decisions are easy, she runs across a hard one and employs a decision-making tool to solve her problem. After each section of the story, students respond to questions and use their mouse to drag and drop information into their own decision-making grid. The pre- and posttest scores the students earn are automatically entered into the teacher's gradebook in the instructor management panel.

The art of decision making
If you look at what psychologists consider to be high-level stressors, you'll find a list of about 40 life events. We have no control over many of these events, but for more than half, we do. So much of our stress and success in life depends on the decisions we make. In this short course, your students will learn the economic way of making decisions, why every decision bears a cost, and how to make informed decisions. Students will learn about scarcity, trade-offs, and opportunity cost as they experience the dilemma faced by a teen named Aaron. Near the end of the course, learners can address one of their own decisions by filling out a PACED decision-making template. In addition, you can assign the Discussion Board to allow students to share their experience with you and the rest of class. Like the elementary version, the pre- and posttest scores that students earn are automatically entered into the teacher's gradebook in the instructor management panel.

Getting started as an instructor

  1. Go to the Econ Lowdown site (
  2. Click REGISTER under the log-in panel.
  3. Enter the required fields in the form and click SUBMIT.
  4. Click over to your e-mail account to check for your confirmation e-mail. (If you do not see it, check your spam/junk folder.)
  5. Follow the information in your confirmation e-mail to log onto the Instructor Management Panel.
  6. Click MY CLASSROOMS at the top of the page.
  7. Under Add New Classroom, fill out the fields. For example:
    Class Name:  Spring 2014 1st Period
    Begin Date:  01/07/14
    End Date:  05/23/14
  8. Click the ADD NEW CLASSROOM button.
    The classroom name you just entered will appear on the left, under CLASSROOM NAME.
  9. Click classroom name to select it.
    The name of the class and the dates appear on the page, with the text "You currently have no students in this class."
  10. Click the ADD STUDENTS link.
  11. Click the arrow to open the dropdown menu for Number of Students to Add, and then select the number.
    Two columns of blank fields open (first and last names of students), and three links below these fields.
  12. Choose one of the three links to add students in the classroom you just created, and then click the ADD STUDENTS button.
    • Auto-create student names: Generates generic student names like Student A, Student B, etc.
    • Import student list: Allows you to upload a CSV file.
    • Individual student entry: Allows you to type student names directly into the program.
  13. Click the ADD COURSE/VIDEO button.
  14. Select a course from the list that appears. (The two new courses on Decision Making are included in the list.)
    Information about the course appears, including estimated completion time. This text is what your students will see. (You can click the PREVIEW COURSE button to get a detailed look.)
  15. When you are ready to add the course, click the ADD TO CLASSROOM button.
    The course name appears at the left, under the classroom name.
  16. Continue previewing and adding courses.

Other lessons about decision making and opportunity cost
Below we list two lessons from the website of the St. Louis Fed, and one more from the Atlanta Fed.

Elementary level
The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies (from the St. Louis Fed)
In this lesson, students hear a story about Brother and Sister Bear, who seem to want everything. The little cubs learn that they must make choices because they cannot have everything they want. Students follow along with the story by completing an activity listing all of the goods that will satisfy the cubs' wants. The students then take part in an activity to construct a word web and graphic organizer (table) to identify goods that will satisfy a want. They will make a choice, identify the problem of scarcity, and recognize their opportunity cost. (Book written by Stan and Jan Berenstain / ISBN: 978-0-394-80566-5)

Middle school level
On the Court with...Michael Jordan (from the St. Louis Fed)
This book is out of print but is available used and in electronic format.
Students participate in a simulation to learn about choices, alternatives, opportunity cost and human capital. They learn the PACED decision-making model, apply the model and recognize that learning the model is an investment in their human capital. Student groups build a tower with paper cups. Each group has different physical abilities based on an assigned level of human capital. (Book written by Matt Christopher / ISBN: 0-316-13792-8)

High school level
Katrina's Classroom, Lesson 4: Back to School (from the Atlanta Fed)
Complete with all new lessons, electronic whiteboard files, and assessment tools, this five-part lesson looks at the financial lessons learned by a teen and her family when they were displaced from their home and community following Hurricane Katrina. The lesson content examines postsecondary education as a key to greater financial well-being, the costs of and financing options for postsecondary education, and budgeting and saving for achieving financial and personal goals and more. The activities in the lesson emphasize decision making and opportunity cost as well as a variety of personal finance concepts.

By Sherilyn Narker, economic and financial education specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

March 28, 2014