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September 23, 2015 Reading Time: 2 minutes

Mr. Drew Gibson teaches students in World History II at Mount Greylock Regional School on September 9, 2015. Photo by Natalia Smirnova.

Teachers who went through the AIER Teach-the-Teachers Initiative continue to dazzle us with creativity and innovative practices in their classrooms.

On September 9, 2015, we observed two American History II lessons taught by Drew Gibson at Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown, Mass. The purpose of the lessons was defined by the teacher as “discovering the story behind economic data and charts.”

Mr. Gibson used data on babysitting wages per hour, and movie ticket prices from 1945 through 2000, to make an interesting point about supply, demand and price. The data was taken from Virtual Economics, published by the Council for Economic Education.

The students computed the average annual rate of increase for both values, and graphed the relationship between babysitting wages and movie ticket prices. They were able to see that these two values were positively correlated.

The teacher used the increasing price levels of movie tickets to explain simple inflation. But he asked the students to think on a higher level. The class discussed the concept of purchasing power of one hour of work. Then, looking at the data, they concluded that movie ticket prices probably increased before baby-sitting wages increased. This led to the discussion of the causality between the price and wage movements. By noting the start date for the data string (1945), the students speculated that the population increase called the Baby Boom probably triggered a general inflation due to increased demand. Subsequently, a higher level of prices in general, and for movie tickets in particular, prompted teenagers to command higher wages for their services so they could afford to go to the movies.

For homework, Mr. Gibson asked students to imagine the likely level of prices and wages in the year 2025. He also asked students to consider what would happen to babysitting wages in the future if there were a surplus, or if there were a shortage, of teenagers willing to babysit.

In this class, students learned important concepts such as inflation, price of labor, demand and supply as well as correlation, causation, and vocabulary of demographics.

Because the teacher used an interesting, hands-on approach, students will more easily remember and apply those concepts in the future. It also wonderfully illustrates the economics-across-the curriculum approach, which is a special feature of our Teach-the-Teachers program.

Natalia Smirnova, PhD

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