Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Teaching introductory economics through stories

A related difficulty is that introductory economics courses are typically awash with equations and graphs. Formal mathematical analysis has facilitated considerable intellectual progress in economics over the last century. But it is not a particularly good vehicle for trying to teach students introductory economics, most of whom become so distracted by the mathematical details that they never really acquire an intuitive grasp of the underlying economic principles. It's a shame, because only a handful of simple principles do most of the heavy lifting in economics.

As a species, we evolved as storytellers. When people wanted to transmit an idea, they didn't express it in the form of an equation or graph. They told a story. Students can absorb ideas in the form of equations and graphs, but in most cases only with considerable effort. In contrast, an idea that is embedded in a story slides into the human brain like a key into a lock.

That's from this post by Cornell economist Robert Frank whose book The Economic Naturalist is just out. Here's the introductory chapter.


  1. gaddeswarup said...

    I bought the book a few weeks ago and opened it today after seeing your post. It opened on page 116 and the topic: " Wy aren't there any top-ranked for-profit universities?"!
    Partha Dasgupt's "Economics; A very Short Introduction" which came out recently also looks promising.
    Please let me know if you want either book; I am leaving Ann Arbor on June 19th.