A Simulation Game

Submitted by Stephanie Thibeau

Purpose:          Simulating the impact on trading potential of an unequal distribution of necessary resources.

Grade Level:    7- 12

Time Needed:  60 minutes


Grade 7 and Grade 8

LO3.1      The student will be expected to explain how economic decisions are made by individuals, organizations, and governments, based on scarcity and opportunity cost.

LO3.6        The student will be expected to explain how government policies, expenditures, regulations, and trade agreements influence productivity and living standards.

Halifax Regional School Board Learning Outcomes Framework (Grades P-9) - for the above Learning outcomes

Atlantic Canada and the Global Community (Grade Nine)

SCO3.6    The student will be expected to identify and demonstrate an understanding of trade and other economic linkages among Atlantic Canada and the national and global communities.

LO3.6.1    The student will be expected to define the term global economy.

LO3.6.3    The student will be expected to determine the extent to which the attitudes of Atlantic Canadians toward economic development and prosperity are in harmony with global trends.

Nova Scotia Department of Education Document Depot - to download other specific curriculum guides


A chart displaying shapes and values (see FIGURE 1.1), a chart displaying resource prices (see FIGURE 1.2), plain paper, pencils, scissors, rulers, compasses, "currency" made of slips of paper with numbers (with denominations of 5 and 10 marked on them).


  FIGURE 1.2

Paper (per sheet)              5

Scissors (per pair)            15 

Rulers (each)                   25

Compasses (each)            50



     Before students enter, the classroom is arranged as desk for every four students in the class is positioned in the center of the room.  On each desk, the teacher places "raw materials" in different quantities.  For example, desk one might have 2 sheets of paper, and 5 currency units; desk two, 4 sheets of paper, a pair of scissors, and 10 currency units; desk three, 2 sheets of paper, a pair of scissors, a ruler and 20 currency units; desk four, a sheet of paper, 2 pairs of scissors, 2 compasses and 50 currency units; desk five, 6 sheets of paper, 2 pairs of scissors, 2 compasses, a ruler and 100 currency units. (The quantities can vary according to availability of resources.  It is important, however, to have an unequal distribution among the desks.  A limited supply of extra resources should be kept at the "Bank" (operated by the teacher) for purchases at fixed prices (see FIGURE 1.2).  Both charts (FIGURES 1.1 and 1.2) are displayed at the front of the class, so that they are visible from all desks.

     When students enter the room, they are asked to form groups of four and are assigned to a desk.  The teacher then tells them that their task is to make any of the shapes in FIGURE 1.1, which they can then sell to the bank in exchange for the number of currency units given in each one.  The shapes must be made exactly to the measurements displayed on the chart, and the Banker (i.e. the teacher) has the right to refuse to buy any shapes that are not of the exact specifications.  Additional resources can be purchased, for the amount indicated in FIGURE 1.2 from the Bank; trading of resources between groups can also take place, with the terms arranged by the groups concerned.

     The teacher should allow the game to proceed without interruption for a fixed period, or until after all of the available resources have been used.  At the end, groups count up their units of currency and the "winners" are declared.  Discussion follows.


     This activity is likely to generate a strong sense of injustice among the groups with the fewest resources as the cumulative impact of the unequal distribution becomes evident.  This emotional energy can be tapped at the beginning of the debriefing by concentrating first upon the students' feelings.  The vocabulary used by both "winners" and "losers" can be written up on the board.

     Once feelings have been explored, students should be asked to reflect upon whether this activity is a realistic simulation of any situation they know.  Examples from within their own society are likely to be given; statistics about global distribution of wealth and the operations of multinational corporations can be introduced at this stage.  Students can be asked to consider how the trading system in this activity could be made more fair, and what parallels there might be in the wider world.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of "free trade" agreements. such as those in place among North American nations or within Europe, for both powerful and not-so-powerful member states?  What role can individual consumers play in creating more just and equitable trading systems?



Pike, G. and D. Selby.  "Trading Game" in In the Global Classroom 2.  Ontario: Pippin Publishing Corporation, 2000.  pp.188-190.


Christian Aid, "The Trading Game", London: Author, 1980.



Canadian Geographic Staff.  Atlas of Canada and the World.  Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1996.

Hillmer, Norman.  The Atlas of Canada and the World.  Vancouver: Whitecap Books Limited, 1999.

Canadian Studies Resources: The Canada, U.S. Free Trade Agreement - Lists possible reference materials concerning the Free Trade Agreement for use by teachers.

FASOnline - This is a link to a North American Free Trade Agreement fact sheet.

World Trade Organization - Here's a link to the WTO's homepage where you can find statistics, publications, current events in world trade, and an option for related links.

Economics 101: Economics for Kids - A great website if you are looking for basic definitions of economic terms.  It is a great place to start for students who have had no previous experience with economics.  As well as definitions, there are mini-quizzes, resources, links and even lessons that you can use.

Economics Website - This is another website for beginners.  It, too, has links to many terms and definitions which are a bit more advanced that the Economics for Kids page.

Social Studies for Kids - Another great website for beginners in the field of Economics.  It is more advanced than the Economics for Kids, but there is a lot of useful information on this page.  The main page deals with the Importance of Trade, but there are also links to pages dealing with: Want vs. Need, Supply and Demand, Scarcity and Choices, and Interdependence.




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