Five years ago, U.S. history, citizenship and geography teacher John Fillop was asked to teach economics.
Despite all his efforts, Mr. Fillop said many of his students at Butler High School kept getting poor test scores in the subject.
Last year, he began creating the Economics Game, a large, table-size board game that looks much like an enhanced Monopoly game.
"This country is in debt. Lots of Americans are in debt," Mr. Fillop said. "If I didn't do something to help these kids get it, they would leave here and not know how to manage their money. I wanted to find a hands-on, interactive way to help them get a grasp on it."
The game is broken into sections, including a product market, a financial market, businesses and manufacturer, and a housing and apartment area. There also is a government section and a Rest of World area to teach about foreign exchange, other countries' money values and tariffs, Mr. Fillop said.
The teacher made buildings, including the New York Stock Exchange, the Atlanta Federal Reserve, Bobby Jones Ford, IBM, houses and the BMW AG in Rest of World.
To play the game, Mr. Fillop divides each class into six groups, with each group representing a household. Each household is a young couple making $3,200 a month and living in an apartment
It is up to each couple to go through life spending money and balancing budgets with occasional unpredictable factors, such as medical emergencies, lawsuits, a bonus of $2,000 in income tax refunds or a $1,000 lottery win.
Mr. Fillop said he plays the part of the government and makes them pay taxes each week.
Three requirements must be met for students to win the game. They must buy a house, buy or lease a car, and start a business or buy an existing one.
"I want them to learn how a business works. (I've) got to teach them about marginal cost," Mr. Fillop said.
He said the game is necessary because of three severe limitations that high school economics teachers have.
"One, there's no introduction to the subject in elementary and middle school, so in the 11th and 12th grade, this is like a foreign language; they hadn't ever heard of the concepts," he said. "Secondly, it really needs to be a year. In one semester they're confused. When I ask them about their scores, the kids say, 'You threw too much stuff at us.'"
Third, he said, the teachers haven't been readied, either.
"We don't prepare economics teachers," he said. "I was told to teach it. I had no training and I felt underprepared."
Assistant Principal Elizabeth Schad said she thinks the game will be a great asset to the students, and she is impressed with all the work Mr. Fillop has done.
"He's very innovative, very dedicated. He spent hours and hours of his own time working on this," she said. "He's always coming up with different ideas to help kids learn."
Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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