Author Stephanie Herman offered to send me a copy of her economics curriculum for children, Cost Benefit, Jr: Stories in Microeconomics., and my children have been getting an enjoyable and valuable education in economics ever since it came in the mail. Actually, I’ve been learning, too. Not only will you and your students learn from this curriculum about consumers, buyers, entrepeneurs, employees, and customers, you’ll also learn economic terms such as “cost-benefit analysis”, “diminishing marginal utility”, and “opportunity cost”. If those latter terms sound like something from a college economics text, never fear. Cost Benefit Jr. explains these and other terms and ideas using stories about Keira’s allowance, Nicholas’s pet care service, Lori’s lemonade stand and others. The author also applies economic theory to aspects of life you may not have thought were related to economics such as the friendship market, the hidden cost of watching television, and food and nutrition trade-offs. And Mr. Greedy L. McMeanie makes an appearance every lesson or two trying to turn the free enterprise system into a means to his own selfish ends with his nefarious schemes. He’s not successful, however, because market forces “keep Mr. McMeanie from hurting us economically”–if we understand and use the economic lessons in the book.
The curriculm is all together in one book: stories, workbook-type quizzes, longer end-of-chapter wrap-up quizzes and suggested activities, and a glossary of terms and an answer key. There are eight sections in the book with four or five lessons in each section. Ideally, you will need one book for each child who’s using the material since some of it is in workbook format; however, I have two children using the same book. They simply go through the questions together, and the older one does the writing. The material is suitable for children from about fourth grade through eighth or ninth grade although it wouldn’t be bad as an introduction for high school students. Go through the material quickly in about eight to ten weeks or slowly in a semester. I would suggest the slow approach; you’re going to want to discuss and work out the practical implications of some of this material in your own family or classroom. Practically speaking and putting what I’ve already learned to use, I think $39.95 is a “fair price”(price agreed on by sellers and buyers) for this curriculum, and the “expense” (cost) will be an “investment” (cost paid now to gain a future benefit) that yields “returns” (future benefits of investment) in the form of children with a head start in understanding how to work within the economic system we call capitalism.
By the way, Mr. Greedy L. McMeanie doesn’t like free markets, and he probably wouldn’t want you to read this book. But you don’t want to listen to him, do you?