A New Economics Curriculum: Q&A with Discovery Education

At a Glance

  • Online learning platforms cover economics of food and fuel
  • All 50 states now include economics in K-12 standards

The new world of finance and economics means we pay for things with our phones, secure credit with a couple of mouse clicks, clear transactions in nanoseconds and never carry a wallet. With the torrid pace of financial technology getting faster every day, it’s never been as critical for young people to understand the principles that drive transactions and commerce. Yet, only about one-third of U.S. states require students to take an economics course before graduating. That is why Discovery Education has partnered with CME Group to offer new lessons for high school classrooms that make learning economics more accessible. The partnership began last year with the launch of digital modules that could be easily incorporated to supplement existing curriculum anywhere in the United States. Early response points to success, but as Discovery Education’s Senior Vice President Lori McFarling told us in an interview there is still work ahead.

We spoke with McFarling recently to get her perspective on why economics education is important and how Discovery Education and CME Group are helping to broaden students’ understanding of this topic.


How did the partnership between CME Group and Discovery Education form?

In addition to our school-based efforts in K-12 classrooms, Discovery Education is forging strategic alliances with companies who share our belief that engaging students in real-world experiences is critical to building college, career and citizenship readiness.  Educators are looking for compelling digital resources that provide such an experience and support economics education. CME Group was looking to contribute tools for this kind of education platform, so it made perfect sense to work with them.   Together, we launched Econ Essentials in 2015 in classrooms nationwide.

Consisting of two interactive modules focusing on fuel and food prices resources, these learning tools explore core economic concepts through the lens of futures. The content in the modules aligns with the Council for Economic Education’s Voluntary Content Standards for Economics, and includes authentic challenges, interactive components, embedded assessments, and an accompanying Educator Guide.

Lori McFarling_office photo

Discovery Education’s Lori McFarling oversees the organization’s global public-private partnerships and leads marketing initiatives that support educators in transitioning classrooms to digital learning environments.

Why is economics education so important for today’s youth?

Quite simply, economics permeates our everyday lives, impacting not only the decisions we make as individuals or families, but also the decisions of businesses, nonprofits, and government entities.  The study of economics helps grow important skills young people need, such as critical thinking, problem solving, media and information literacy.  For these reasons, today’s young people need a basic understanding of the economics underpinning our society to power their success as learners, as individuals, and as global citizens.

It’s essential that high school students learn how businesses navigate uncertainty. It helps them understand the important and ever-changing variables that affect our global economy. By studying how global markets work, students will be better equipped to make wise decisions in both their public and private lives.

I’m so encouraged to see schools around the country make economics education a priority. According to the Council for Economic Education, all 50 states and the District of Columbia now include economics in the K-12 standards for the first time as of 2015. While more states are implementing standards in economics, not all students are required to take an economics course in order to graduate from high school. We still have more work to do to prepare our students for success beyond the classroom.


What are the benefits of having a digital, interactive platform to teach kids about economics?

We know that kids interact with digital content differently today than any generation before them. A recent report from Common Sense Media found that teens consume nine hours of entertainment media per day on average, and tweens use an average of six hours. Those averages don’t even include time spent using media for school or homework.

Fueling the Future screengrab

In fueling the future, students learn about the risks of operating a shuttle business.

By using a digital platform, we can leverage students’ familiarity with media to more deeply engage them in topics such as economics. The use of immersive videos, quizzes, games, infographics, and other multimedia resources creates an authentic learning environment that mirrors students’ use of technology outside the classroom.

Finally, digital content is also more flexible and adaptable than traditional print resources. Content can be updated almost immediately to reflect the latest news and trends.


How does that translate to real-world applications?  Can a digital program help them use the economics principles they are learning in school?

I think it’s important that we make economics relevant for young adults and children by asking students to tackle problems worth solving. How do you balance a budget? Why do gas prices go up and down? Why does your favorite sandwich cost what it costs?

For instance, one of the curriculum modules in Econ Essentials allows students to take a journey from ‘farm to table’ in the role of advisor to a farm, enabling them to learn how the supply chain and other global factors influence supply and demand. The module explores the role of economics in food prices and what influences the price we pay for our food.

Facts About Food screengrab

A screenshot from the Facts about Food economics module

Another module presents students with a challenge of starting an imaginary shuttle business to drive their friends around town.  Along the way, students learn the basics of supply and demand, discover the local, national and global forces that impact gas prices, and explore how gas prices impact their everyday lives. Students then apply this information to set a ticket price for their business and complete a simulation to see if they made a profit.

Teens want to know how and why they are going to use what they’re learning in the classroom in the real world. Through the digital resources provided in Econ Essentials, educators are empowered to help students make real world connections to important economic principles in a way that not only supports their success in the K-12 setting, but also helps prepare them to succeed beyond graduation.

OpenMarkets is an online magazine and blog focused on global markets and economic trends. It combines feature articles, news briefs and videos with contributions from leaders in business, finance, economics and politics in an interactive forum designed to foster conversation around the issues and ideas shaping our industry.

Additional Recent Articles in Economics