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Education Standards (2)

Economic Foundations: Course Map & Recommended Resources

Economic Foundations: Course Map & Recommended Resources


The learning objectives below refer to the typical goals one would have for an introduction to macroeconomics.  Most economists consider the discipline as “a way of thinking”. The key question we answer is “how we make choices under scarcity”. However, we encourage you to consider other alternative ways to conceptualize and teach economics or even introduce pluralistic ideas into your course. For example, the CORE Economics project describes economics as, “The study of how people interact with each other and with their natural surroundings in providing their livelihoods, and how this changes over time.” The “economy is part of society, which in turn is part of the biosphere.” (Chapter 1.11). More importantly, many of the factors and commodities that give us economic growth are socially (re)produced and uncompensated. Consider alternative conceptualizations of the macroeconomy such as the one proposed in UNDP (2012): Gender and Economic Policy Management Intitiave, page 30 outlined in the figure above. 

The supplemental content is an excellent place to find videos to enliven your classes. Listed alternative resources can be used to familiarize yourself with material that goes beyond the standard treatment.

Learning Objectives

  1. Define economics (1)  
  2. Distinguish between microeconomics and macroeconomics (2)

  3. Explain the key ideas of the economic way of thinking (1)

  4. Describe the role of economic models (1)

  5. Define scarcity and opportunity cost and their relationship to economics (1,2)

NOTE: This Module meets Ohio TAG's 1, 2 for an Intro to Macroeconomics Course

Recommended Textbook Resources

Principles of Macroeconomics 2e: OpenStax CNX. Jun 4, 2018, Chapter 1, pages 9-26

All the learning objectives except for 5 above are covered in the first chapter. The above chapter also introduces students to FRED, a database maintained by the St Louis Fed that aggregates all publicly available data in an excellent and accessible platform. Most of the activities that we have designed in these modules require students (and instructors) to use FRED.

Learning objective 5 is covered here: Introduction to Choice in a World of Scarcity

Supplemental Content/Alternative Resources

Core-Econ: “The Capitalist Revolution” in The Economy

Rethinking Macroeconomics: an Introduction

  • Authored by: John F. McDonald (2016). Provided by: Routledge Publishing.

Reintroducing Macroeconomics: A Critical Approach

  • Authored by: Steven Mark Cohn (2015). Provided by: Routledge Publishing. 

Prof. Sheila Dow on Pluralism in Economics 

  • Provided by: Goldsmiths Economics.
  • Describes why pluralism is important in economics. She distinguishes between “schools of thought” and “modes of thought”. The social world is not consistent and the way we explain what we see should be to acknowledge different strands of reasoning and approach to evidence.

Podcast: Episode 142: Specialization and Trade: A Re-introduction to Economics 

  • Authored by: Arnold Kling.
  • Arnold Kling speaks to about his new book, Specialization and Trade. This is a better resource for instructors rather than students.

Gender and Economic Policy Management Intitiave Asia and the Pacific: Gender and Macroeconomics

  • Provided by: UNDP (2012).

Video: FMM. Towards Pluralism in Economics

  • Created by: Irene van Staveren.

Topic Exercise

This exercise asks students to digest data from Maddison’s economic history project. Students will come away with an understanding the historical evolution of standards of living over time. They will also see the European/North American world was not always the world’s economic center. 

Plot the information in Table 1 on page 11 of the following article: The First Update of the Maddison Project Re-Estimating Growth Before 1820Discuss what you see.

  • Authored by: Jutta Bolt and Jan Juiten van Zanden (2013).

Active Learning Exercise

Place students in small groups and have them discuss the following questions at the end of the chapter. Consider using a Think-Pair Share teaching strategy. For more information see SERC "Think-Pair-Share" Pedagogy in Action.

Read “How capitalism revolutionized the way we live, and how economics attempts to understand this and other economic systems.” in Core-Econ above. Place students in small groups and have them discuss the following questions at the end of the chapter.

Suppose you can choose to be born in any time period in any of the countries in Figure 1.1a, 1.10 or 1.11, but you know that you would be among the poorest 10% in the population.

  1. In which country would you choose to be born?

  2. Now suppose, instead, you know you would initially be among the poorest 10% in the population, but you would have a fifty-fifty chance of moving to the top 10% of the population if you work hard. In which country would you now choose to be born?

  3. Now suppose that you can only decide on the country and time period of your birth. You cannot be sure if you would be born in the city or the countryside, would be male or female, rich or poor. In which time and country would you choose to be born?

  4. For the scenario in (3), in which time and country you would least want to be born?

Use what you have learned from this unit to explain your choices.