Wednesday, September 30, 2020 on Education Talk Radio - Podcast

Recently CEO Rob Chatfield and Director of Education Susan Gable had the chance to sit down with Larry Jacobsof Education Talk Radioto discuss the high-quality, free educational materials offers educators. 

Listen below.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

econlife – What Covid Teaches Us About a College Town by Elaine Schwartz

When the media talk about the schools and Covid-19, they focus on primary, middle, and high school students. If the kids are home, then they learn less while their parents have a tough time working.

For college shutdowns, though, many of the worries are different.

College Towns

A recent Boston Federal Reserve study took a look at the towns located near New England’s 208 colleges and universities. They concluded that higher education is responsible for an average of 3.4 percent of all employment while in certain areas, a whopping 38 percent is a possibility.

Below, the darkest shades are for communities where more than 10 percent of the jobs come from local colleges and universities:

Meanwhile, with Maine at the top, there are 57 New England communities that are heavily dependent on the nearby college or university:

Covid-19 Shutdowns

Let’s assume that a college or university responds to Covid-19 by teaching remotely.  At the school, revenue could drop because of student departures, tuition discounts, and eliminated fees. The employees that are laid off or furloughed spend less locally and could lose tuition grants given to them and their children. From there, we can look at the town where rents might not be paid and the stores, restaurants, and bars that lose student, faculty, and staff business.

In addition, when sports are cancelled, the impact can be huge. Texas A&M has said that each football game generates $20 million in consumer spending. The 60,000 (or so) people who attend Texas Tech games bring millions of dollars to Lubbock. On game days, a Lubbock sporting goods store selling team merchandise hires 35 extra employees. Baylor athletics has said they generated $373.3 million for Waco’s economy.

Our Bottom Line: Externalities

An economist might say that when employment, wages, and student driven consumption shrink, Covid-19 is creating a slew of negative externalities. Defined as the harmful impact of a contract or decision on an uninvolved third party, a negative externality can ripple through a community. My favorite example is when fumes from a hot sauce maker reputedly gave its neighbors heartburn. It really happened to Sriracha.

Somewhat similarly, the impact of college shutdowns from Covid-19 travel beyond their source. The school itself, its employees, and its students buy goods and services at local establishments that range from bars to dry cleaners. Football alone is a multi-million dollar activity.

So, what does Covid-19 teach us about a college town? That the jobs and wages that spillover from the schools fuel the local economies. When the schools shutdown, local communities suffer.

My sources and more: A Boston Fed paper says the most about Covid’s impact on college towns. Then, there is more in The Washington Post, and the Caller Times.

Our featured image is from The Daily Pennsylvanian at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

econlife - What a Behavioral Economist Says About Exercise by Elaine Schwartz

From the Wall Street Journal:

A behavioral economist knows about incentivizing exercise. But we need to start with my dishes.

Incentivizing Exercise

For several years, I’ve listened to “page-turner” mysteries when I do the dinner dishes. In fact, the 14 novels in the Maisie Dobbs series were so good that I actually looked for extra dirty plates. Somewhat similarly, one reason I walk four miles each day is a late night (big) scoop of high-fat super premium coffee ice cream.

Temptation Bundling

Combining dishes with novels and walking with ice cream, I’ve been temptation bundling. Done alone, each activity has less utility (satisfaction or pleasure). I won’t enjoy the dishes and I feel guilty spending an hour or two with Maisie Dobbs.

You can see that an enjoyable activity initially has a bump in utility but then creates a long term cost:

For a beneficial activity, quite the opposite happens. First we have the pain, and then the benefits:

Together though, the cost and benefit change. Because I experience less guilt, the long-term cost curve is no longer as low on the utility axis. Correspondingly, the “pain of execution” diminishes. For both, there is less cost and more benefit.

But, does it really work?

The Experiment

To see if temptation bundling had academic resilience, researchers divided 151 people who wanted to exercise into two groups. One group received iPods loaded with tempting page-turner novels that could be accessed only at the gym. The second group didn’t have the book incentive.

The results confirmed most of what we would expect. Group 1’s workouts exceeded the control group by 27%. So yes, temptation bundling did increase the frequency of the undesirable activity—the “should.” However, we should note that it didn’t kickstart a permanent workout regimen. After a temporary Thanksgiving break, neither group displayed “staying power.”

Our Bottom Line: Complementarities

As economists, we could say that we have been looking at demand complementarities. When the price of peanut butter decreases, our demand for jelly goes up. If I purchase a home, I will need new furniture. Similarly, temptation bundling creates demand complementarities between wants and shoulds. Each can incentivize more demand for the other.

So, returning to where we began, the answer to the WSJ question is to temptation bundle. Just figure out what guilty pleasure you want to combine with more exercise.

My sources and more: In The Washington Post, Penn Professor Katherine Milkman takes us to several commitment devices. Much drier, the academic formula for health interventions is described in this paper. Then, for a fast read, here is a brief summary of a flossing study. However, the best source that combined the academics and some fun was this Freakonomics podcast.

Please note that we’ve previously published sections of today’s post and our featured image is from Pixabay.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Civics with Dean – Class 1

Civics with Dean: This class focuses on liberty (yours), the power of the individual, and concepts of self-government. There will be an emphasis on what you need to know to be an active citizen and awareness of your rights. We will discuss certain amendments and how they IMPACT you (street law), financial literacy (can I afford that?), basics of government - information to know when you can say enough, as well as the rights and privileges you are owed! izzit* time we see how government works for us, our responsibilities, and how to get an equitable outcome for you?

More often than not, students seem to dread history and/or civics for many reasons. One reason is the voluminous amounts of reading the student must complete to “keep up” with what inevitably becomes the second reason: rote memorization of facts. Names, dates, key figures, etc. What needs to be infused in the classroom dynamic is the educator’s passion, emotions, expertise (tying the past to their understanding). In the movie Jerry Maquire, Cuba Groding, in his role as Ron Tidwell, screamed, “Show me the money!” Translated to students today, show me the relevance! With the right resources, you, the educator, will show them the money/relevance.

Civics Class 1 – Back in the Trenches (Classroom)

Syllabus – check. Notebooks, izzit pens and flash drives ready for students – check. I was ready for my first Civics class. As the 2020-2021 school year began, I started with the Pledge of Allegiance.     

While it's a traditional start to a school day, I had a hidden agenda! By the time we all got to "…and to the Republic, for which it stands…" I stopped the class.

"What is a Republic? Why is it in the Pledge?" The questioned was posed and students offered various responses. After allowing them a few awkward attempts toward to answer, I immediately started's Teachable Moments (a short video that both gets to the point and shakes things up,) A Republic. As I looked across the classroom, students were attentive and engaged. The Teachable Moment allowed me to then reframe the question, "Why did the founders believe a republic would be better than a democracy?" Student answers became more along the lines of what our Framers intended. 

The idea of liberty was introduced, and we began to discuss individual & property rights and what liberty meant to each of them. LIBERTY was written on the whiteboard and students added their thoughts (see picture). Since a republic form of government and liberty are synonymous, I turned the class discussion to what gave our Founders the impetus, the ideals of both individual liberty & property rights, and how government serves the people. To help stimulate the conversation, I queued up another Teachable Moments, Magna Carta. This “great charter” happened over 800 years ago, but ties to the U.S. founding documents, underscoring that each document safeguards a person’s right to property. It began to help students piece the puzzle together. Great discussion and ideas were shared. 

Finally, I wrapped my class with the homework assignment - completing the First Amendment Word Games (Found in First Amendment educational video under izzit Extras). This will help students build a foundation for understanding prior to next week’s Bill of Rights, First Amendment discussion.


Dean Graziano is the Vice-President of He is a multi-state, award-winning educator and former Curriculum Specialist Teacher grades 6-12 Social Studies, with over 25 years in education. He served on the Massachusetts MCAS Standard Setting Panel, and also selected by the College Board to be an Advanced Placement Reader for U.S. History. He worked on the historical inquiry model and a national presenter for ABC-Clio, a Social Studies data base company. 

In 2007, in a surprise visit to his school, he was awarded the United States Department of Educations' American Star of Teaching Award. Dean was selected as the 2017 State of New Hampshire's Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator- of -the Year. Dean’s pilot program in Rochester, NH was singled out by NH Governor, Chris Sununu as the model for the State of N.H. Career Academies. In 2019, he developed and implemented a proposal to purchase a Mobile Classroom ( a new & remodeled 36’ RV, aka M.A.P.s) utilizing Perkins V funding, to bring CTE/WBL programming - leveling the playing field/equity for ALL NH students and spoke nationally at several ACTE Conferences on this model.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

econlife - Why We Should Care About Curbside Cardboard Crime by Elaine Schwartz

In 2016, the dumpsters in Madrid got smaller holes to prevent cardboard theft.

It didn’t work.

Called “beige gold,” curbside cardboard is picked up by cities and then sold for recycling. But in Madrid, where thieves were arriving first, authorities have estimated a multi-year €16 million (close to $19 million) revenue loss. Now, New York and California are also reporting cardboard thievery.

Recycling Revenue

We had had the perfect setup. The shipping containers that arrived here from China were going home empty. Decades ago, Chinese entrepreneurs figured out they could pay us for our trash, recycle it into raw materials, and then remanufacture it. By 2016, we had been sending upwards of 700,000 tons a year of trash to China. The system let cities get the recycling revenue that could support trash management.

But then, during January 2018, China said it was banning most trash imports. The decision was a whopper.

China had two reasons:

1. The waste was too dirty. After all, our Amazon boxes are okay but not all of the plastic and foam inside. And beyond that, we discard our clothes hangers, shoes and garden hoses. Most then go to sorting machines that inadequately separate the filthy and hazardous materials from everything else. China used to get it all. Now they are saying “No.”

2. They are more affluent. China can afford to purchase the new materials they need to make carpets and pipes and all they send us. They can import new plastics.

When China limited the kind of cardboard it would recycle, price plunged as their demand curve shifted to the left:

However, there are still markets for recycling cardboard. Like most commodities, used cardboard’s supply and demand push price up and down. Currently,  recycled cardboard is selling for somewhere between £70 and £80 per ton in England (with price spiking to £130 a ton when coronavirus first spread).

Our Bottom Line: Tragedy of the Commons

Because curbside cardboard, the ocean, and the air are shared resources, some of us mistreat them. Called the tragedy of the commons, thieves take the cardboard, we overfish, and factories pollute. The reason is the “commons.” When no one owns a resource, there is less incentive to care for it.

For years, the recycling revenue that came from China created an incentive for municipalities to recycle. Now, with China banning most of our trash and cardboard, it has disappeared.

My sources and more: Thanks to Marginal Revolution for alerting me to cardboard theft and this BBC article. From there it made sense to look at recycling in The Atlantic, an NPR report, WSJ, and from a WTO press release, Please note that several of today’s paragraphs were in a previous econlife post.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

econlife - How to Slice An Apple (Share of Stock) by Elaine Schwartz

Because of stock splits, a person who owned one share of Apple on June 15, 1987 will have 224 at the end of August.

On August 24th, Apple stock will split 4 for 1. That just means you get 3 additional shares for every 1 that you hold. While the number of shares go up, the price goes down (and more people can afford them). If Apple is trading at $400 or so, then the split-adjusted share price will be $100 when trading starts on August 31.

Below, you can see Apple’s stock-split history:

Where are we going? To why Apple became a corporation.

Apple’s Finance

Our story starts in Sunnyvale, California during the 1960s. As a rather small municipality with a disproportionately large population of engineers and electronics experts, Sunnyvale was Steve Jobs’s and Steve Wozniak’s hometown.

In high school, together, the two friends shared an interest in electronics. After, they attended college for awhile, worked, and traveled. As designers at Atari, they created video games. Then, in 1976, they started their own computer company that could have been named “Executek” or “Matrix Electronics.”

But Apple sounded better.

At this moment, an image of your laptop computer might come to mind. A monitor, a keyboard, maybe a printer nearby. In 1976, none of this existed. When Jobs and Wozniak promised 50 computers to a computer store, the owner received 50 circuitry boards—no cover even hid the network of wires and chips that made up the computer. That was it—no power source, no disks, no slots.

To begin, Jobs and Wozniak used their savings and borrowed funds. For their very first order, they sought to build each circuit board in the Jobs family garage for $25 and to sell them for $50 apiece. When they sold their earliest “fully assembled” Apple I computers in 1976, the price was $666.66, a number that appealed to them much more for its sound than for practical pricing reasons.

However, they needed much more money.

Because they created a corporation, they could leap from a small revenue stream to a venture capital, privately financed corporation, to a public one. The turning point was December 12, 1980, when, at $22 apiece, its shares were first sold to you and me. That large infusion of cash made additional facilities and product development possible. It illustrated the money raising power of the corporate form of ownership.

Our Bottom Line: The Corporation

How you own your business determines your legal obligations, your liabilities, and your potential profitability. Because a corporation exists as a “person” in the eyes of the law, investors have limited liability. Meanwhile, when it issues new shares or borrows through bonds and loans, as a separate entity, the corporation can raise money.

In a market system, the corporate form of ownership optimizes what the invisible hand can do…with an Apple.

My sources and more: While their emphasis is more politics than business, The Washington Post had some good analysis on the Apple stock split. From there, some nice complements were Barrons, WSJ, and BusinessInsider. From my Addison Wesley textbook, I’ve excerpted some apple history.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

S.M.A.R.T Steps Week

Dean Graziano, VP of Education for®, has authored a proclamation to celebrate and underscore the importance of back-to-school and secured New Hampshire’s Gov. Chris Sununu’s signature on a proclamation declaring September 7-11, 2020 S.M.A.R.T. Steps Week.

S.M.A.R.T. steps mean S-Start with discussion, M-Make informed decisions, A-Access reliable materials and content, R-Respect and be responsible towards varying viewpoints, and T-Thoughtful and tenable responses - building leadership. This proclamation underscores student and educator engagement, being actively engaged and rigorously involved in learning - specifically, development of critical-thinkers and being respectful of others, as well as self-reliant and responsible citizens. Our students should be leaders and educational role models for our younger students. Success in a post-secondary path requires hard work, a strong work ethic, responsibility, and problem-solving abilities. 

Because of an ever-changing world due to Covid-19, schools and businesses have had to reinvent learning and preparing students/employees respectively for a new learning/work environment. Simply put, schools and more to-the-point, educators, need effective and proven educational resources NOW! For over fourteen years, offers no-cost, high-quality educational materials to educators: teachers, homeschoolers, parents, grandparents, scout troop leaders – to anyone interested in learning/teaching! We are here for you! Explore why critical thinking starts at! 

New Hampshire citizens are encouraged to participate in the activities commemorating S.M.A.R.T. Steps Week, September 7-11, 2020. For additional information please contact Dean Graziano at [email protected].

Put Away the Tech, Part 3 by Scott Harris

Last week I had a student I taught last semester tell me that she sat in on a class at a small liberal arts class she will be attending this fall. It was an upper level Anthropology class with 16 students besides her. All were taking notes on their computers. She was taking notes by hand, Cornell-style. 

The professor eventually asked her what she was doing. She told her, explaining the research she had learned in my class about the superiority of taking notes by hand. “Close your laptops,” the professor said, “New rule in this class: all notes are to be taken by hand.” 

So, 16 people now hate her, but at least they’ll learn more. You’re welcome. 

I posted the incident on Facebook, and it was one of the most liked posts I’ve ever made, exceeding even cute animal pictures or clever things my children said when young. Intuitively, people seem to know that note taking by hand is superior.

I got several contacts from professors, each asking for the research information, including an institute that is run jointly at Oxford and Princeton Universities. The head of the institute said they were likely going to go computerless/phoneless next year and would be happy to have empirical research behind the decision. I happily obliged. 

Here are some findings. Virginia Beringer at the University of Washington found that MRI scans show that sequential finger movements associated with writing activate the large areas of the brain required for thinking, processing language, and memory. 

Dr. Beringer also found that 2nd, 4th, & 6th graders (who are not likely great typists) when writing by hand expressed more ideas, recorded more words, and did so at a faster rate than when typing on a keyboard.

Even having digital lecture outlines seem to alleviate the mental work that supports learning, i.e. organizing, synthesizing & summarizing in one’s own words.

Here is some source material: 

Scott K. Harris teaches The Moral Sciences: A.P. Macroeconomics, A.P. Psychology, and Philosophy. He holds a B.A. in History/Psychology and a M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership. He has also taught U.S. History, World History, International Baccalaureate’s Theory of Knowledge, and coached swimming and water polo. He piloted curriculum for Stossel-in-the-Classroom and is an associate producer for 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

econlife - What Can We Learn From a Big Mac? by Elaine Schwartz

The Economist created the Big Mac Index in 1986 to compare the price of the Big Mac in different countries. Their goal, they said, was to make exchange rate talk more “digestible.” The message was about over- and under-valuation.

Take, for example, the price of a Chinese Big Mac during June, 2020. At 21.70 yuan, the equivalent would be approximately $3.13 today. But the Big Mac sells for $5.71. So the yuan in undervalued.

You can also see that, compared to the U.S. dollar, only three countries have an overvalued, more expensive Big Mac:

As economists, we can see the Big Mac Index (and much more) through the lens of purchasing power parity.

Our Bottom Line: Purchasing Power Parity

The theory of purchasing power parity (PPP) suggests that if a Big Mac costs $5.71 in the US and £3.39 in the UK then, all things being equal, $5.71 should be of equivalent value to £3.39. As the economist explains, “…exchange rates should move towards the level that would make the price of a basket of goods the same everywhere.”

But it’s not.

If a burger is selling for more than the local currency equivalent of $5.71, it is overvalued. Less means the opposite. Because a euro area burger averages $4.97 (€4.21) at the current exchange rate, it is undervalued when compared to the dollar.

Based on the June 2020 Big Mac Index, we can get the most burger for our buck in South Africa. At the equivalent of $1.77, a Big Mac in South Africa (the rand rate) is less than one-third the $5.71 U.S. price. On the other hand, getting the least for our buck, a Big Mac in Switzerland would require (a whopping) $7.13 in U.S. dollars.

This Big Mac Index displays the global strength of the U.S. dollar:

But why does all of this matter? It’s handy to know PPP if we are comparing different economies’ GDPs. When adjusting for buying power, the size of an economy can become relatively larger or smaller:

My sources and more: For more charts that relate to the Index, do take a look at The Economist. Taking the next step, they then use PPP to compare the size of China’s economy to the U.S. economy. But most interesting was economist Timothy Taylor’s discussion of PPP in his Conversable Economist blog.

Ideal for the classroom, reflects Elaine Schwartz’s work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.