Making Economics Fun

“It’s not just an educational requirement, it’s a life requirement.”

That’s how Kanika Mays, an economics teacher at North Atlanta High School, views the subject of economics and the importance of her students learning it. “No matter what they are doing in life, they will use economics, she says. “It is knowledge they can use now and into the future.”

To keep her students engaged, she tries to come up with creative and innovative ways to teach economics. One of those ways is through simulations, many of which she’s learned through the Georgia Council on Economic Education. These include activities that demonstrate supply and demand, the effects of inflation on monetary policy, and comparative advantage with trade.

“I auction off candy bars to show supply and demand,” she says. “Then I’ll throw in a homework pass and more people get involved in the auction and the demand, and competition, really increases. Students understand concepts better if they can actually see how they work, and how they are applied.”

Mays has learned fun and innovative ways to teach economics by attending Georgia Council workshops; she estimates she has attended nine workshops since she began teaching four years ago. “I learn new ways of seeing a topic and new ways to teach that topic,” she says, adding that she recently attended a NASCAR workshop at Atlanta Motor Speedway and learned about specialization and productivity through the example of a pit crew. “I never would have thought of that,” she says. “But it’s something that makes sense to the students, and they grasp the concept so much better.” Mays says she enjoys the lesson plans and resources she receives at each workshop, especially since they are tailored to the required Georgia standards, and she can use them in her classroom right away.

“I had some great teachers and some unimaginative teachers when I was in school,” she says. “I appreciate the excitement I can bring to my classroom thanks to the Georgia Council.”

Though she didn’t intend to be a teacher, she found herself gravitating to education by leading study groups and tutoring other students. After graduating from college with a degree in political science, she earned a master’s degree in social studies education. She has been at North Atlanta High School for four years, the last two of which she has been teaching economics.

“I love education,” she says. “It’s one of the best things in life. It can take you anywhere.”

That love of education took her to the national conference of the Council on Economic Education (CEE) - which many state councils are affiliated with - in New York City this fall. Through the Georgia Council and CEE, Mays received a scholarship to attend the conference, which featured dozens of sessions on how to effectively teach economics.

This was just another way for Mays to learn more innovative ways to teach economics, which is always her goal.

“I want what I teach my students to stay with them, even after they leave school,” Mays says. “I had a student come back after she graduated and tell me she is making life choices by analyzing opportunity costs. To me, that is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching.”