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Teaching Guide

Teaching Economic Policy (Macroeconomics)

Get the (big) picture.


You need to get students to look beyond the contents of their own pockets—a few bucks, a smartphone, pocket lint (which doesn't have the same bargaining power it used to). Our teaching guide can help you expand their vision beyond their micro-savings to the big picture.

In this guide you will find

  • an activity exploring different types of home mortgages.
  • lessons about unemployment and how it affects the economy.
  • discussion questions analyzing fiscal policy, recessions, and inflation (oh my!).

Our policy: knowledge = power. And that's priceless.

What's Inside Shmoop's Economics Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring economics to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 4-10 activities to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

In this activity your students will review what the unemployment rate actually is, as well as its limitations as a measurement. They will then construct a visual representation of unemployment.

1. Ask your students to line up along one wall. Remove two students from the group to serve as statisticians.

2. Tell the statisticians to separate from the group the number of students that would be unemployed if the economy was operating at "full employment" (5.5%).

3. Next, provide your students with the current unemployment rate and ask them to remove the corresponding number, in addition to the initial 5.5%, from the line of students.

4. Next, review with your students the limitations of the unemployment statistic, and tell them to remove another 1%, representing "marginally attached workers."

5. Remind your students that "involuntary part-time workers" are not included in the statistic either. An additional 5.5% of the students must be separated from the line.

6. Close the activity by discussing the effects of unemployment and underemployment rates of these dimensions. Use these questions to get started.

  • What would this look like for a civilian labor force of close to 150 million people?
  • How do the effects of unemployment ripple through the economy?
  • Are only the unemployed affected by high unemployment rates?

Instructions for Your Students

Imagine yourself flipping through channels and landing on CNN. A reporter announces gravely: "The unemployment rate has reached 8%." You know you are supposed to care. But you don't. You know you are supposed to shake your head slowly and mutter, "What is happening to this forsaken planet?" But you don't. It is just a number after all, and eight out of a hundred doesn't sound like a huge deal. This activity will help you understand what 7% or 8% unemployment actually looks like and why these numbers are important. To prepare, find out what the current unemployment rate in your state is by going to this site.

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