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Sunday, July 13, 2008

What we can learn from a high school student

Tyler Cowen points to a story about a student in Pittsburgh, Seth Weidman, who independently taught AP economics to his classmates. Aside from the obvious awesomeness of this kid's initiative, this story was striking to me for the important lessons it contains for all teachers of economics:

- One of the keys to teaching economics well is making it relevant: "Seth developed a philosophy that if students weren't paying attention, it was because he wasn't making the class interesting enough. So he concocted ways to illustrate economic concepts from the real world ofhigh school. Eva remembered the time he explained the concept of a positive externality using an example of complimenting a girl in the hallway."

- The best way to learn something is to teach it: "There's no doubt that it was a lot of work, said Seth, but it wasn't all altruistic: not only was it fun to teach the class, but he also gained a deeper understanding of economics. "If you can't explain something simply, you can't really understand it," he said. "Teaching this class made me really understand a lot of the basic concepts that I'd previously read about.""

- Seth's interest in economics began when he discovered what economics really is: "Whatever Seth thought he knew about economics was fundamentally changed after he read [Hayek's Road to Serfdom], known as a landmark libertarian text. "It made me see that economics isn't just about a bunch of guys sitting on CNBC," he said. "It's more about incentives. It gives you a cool
perspective to understand the world.""

And finally:
- Seth's 'students' did much better than most who take the AP exam: "The students took 12 total tests, and of the eight scores that have come in this month, six are 5's -- the highest possible on a scale of 1 to 5 -- and two are 4's... Nationally, fewer than 15 percent of students who took the tests in 2007 scored a 5 and just more than 25 percent scored a 4."

Related posts:
Do high school econ courses prepare students for college econ courses?
Why doesn't anyone know what economics is?

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