By: Paul Essing
I taught the concept of supply and demand was taught to a group of kids aged from 7-10. I know what you’re thinking – “What are you doing to these kids?! Their brains aren’t equipped to understand the complexities of a supply-demand graph!”
Well, dear reader, they understand it pretty well through the game of “Tower Master”. It’s essentially where students have to build the tallest tower using resources bought from the Kids at Switch economy. They found that the higher in demand and the lower in supply the resource was, the more they were going to be charged. This was also true of the inverse. The kids learnt how to maximise the height of their tower in light of increasing prices for resources, with the student who managed to most successfully build the tallest tower in this volatile economy “winning” the game.
With this basic principle in mind, so began my first lesson at Kids at Switch. Despite the naysayers who constantly doubt the capacity for kids’ intuition for financial literacy, I set out determined to prove them wrong.
This was easier said than done.
I had been given a week to prepare for the lesson, after only being at Kids at Switch for a week. Even though I felt privileged to be given so much trust, I was still quite nervous. Despite any doubts I may have held about Jamie’s trust in me, I enjoyed the challenge of designing a lesson on such a relevant topic – all while trying to make it fun for the kids.
Initially, I struggled with how I would price the resources, set supply caps, and generally maintain mathematical balance. It took a long time to wade through my clunky examples and definitions to a point where I felt okay about teaching. A key thing I learnt was that I had been far too ambitious in what I wanted to teach, ultimately to a) avoid overcomplicating things and b) keep within time restrictions.
But the lesson itself was another story.
When it came time to teach I found the whole process flowed quite naturally. I taught the children the rules of Tower Master and was unsurprised to find that they needed no motivation beyond wanting to “build the tallest tower”. This is an important point: children don’t need to be bribed with external rewards. With a bit of a push from a strong lesson plan, their intrinsic motivations to succeed can be realised; kids need to do it for themselves. When you place a reward on a pedestal, they’re not doing it for themselves; but for an idealised prize. Though, I expect most teachers undermine this power of experiential lessons and skip to assume some sort of reward success.
The students’ towers exhibited a wide scope and I was delighted to see their individual personalities reflected in the buildings. Most importantly, kids as young as 7, accepted and understood the concepts of supply and demand.
Overall, it just proves that you can teach supply and demand in a way more interesting than through a graph – and even more importantly, kids are able to respond to it fully, and understand it more thoroughly than you would first expect. Don’t undermine their abilities. Don’t try to buy them out like you would a company. A child’s brain and intrinsic motivation is more than what we make of it. We should let go from our preconceptions and trust a child’s passions rather than our bias as adults. Let their tower fall to shambles; let them experience the realities of a volatile economy. The more we foster their mindsets and tap into their intrinsic passions, the better off they will become in making prudent, financial decisions in their adulthood.