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Teaching Guide

Teaching Economic Principles

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Students already know the basics, like that George Washington is on the one-dollar bill and that four Washingtons also make a dollar. (Weird how that works.) They can make change, but you can change the way they think about the economy by teaching them basic principles.

In this guide you will find

  • enough graphing and charting activities to make Jim Cramer proud.
  • an activity measuring economic growth through the Gross Domestic Product.
  • discussion questions on scarcity of resources, entrepreneurship, and market share.

This teaching guide shares our net-worth of knowledge of economic principles.

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

1. With your students, review the statistics used to measure the state of the economy. Be sure to emphasize Gross Domestic Product.

2. Share these two statistics with your students, and ask them what they reveal about the economy.

  • 2009 GDP: $14.6 trillion
  • 2008 GDP: $2.7 trillion

3. Discuss the following questions as a class, all of which focus on growth.

  • Are we certain that the economy has grown?
  • Could the GDP numbers change even if the economy has not grown?
  • What if you earned twice as much money this week as you did the week before, but all of the
    prices at the grocery store doubled? Did your income really increase?
  • What if you cut the same number of lawns this week as you did the week before, but doubled your rate? Were you any more productive?

4. Explain how economists compensate for inflation by measuring the economy in both "current" and "constant" dollars. Constant dollars are adjusted for inflation and provide a measurement of "real" GDP as opposed to "nominal" GDP.

5. To demonstrate the importance of making adjustments for inflation in evaluating economic statistics, direct your students to this site, where they will find an inflation calculator.)

6. Collectively generate a list of standard consumer items (a gallon of gas, a new car, a house, a pound of ground beef, etc.). Then have your students find the price of these items during a particular year between now and 1913, which is the range of the inflation calculator. (Search "what things cost in [selected year]")

7. Use the inflation calculator to convert these prices in "current dollars" into prices in constant 2012 dollars.

Instructions for Your Students

You just landed your first job and you cannot resist giving your mother a hard time. You are earning $8.50 an hour; she says she earned $3.25 on her first job. Are you really worth more than twice as much? Was she really that big of a loser? Is there a way to figure this out?

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