Math and teaching economics

I’ve been thinking lately about how economics is taught in college. I’ve had the opportunity to teach a few economics courses. In particular, I’ve taught  math to economics students and I’ve found that the typical math econ course fails miserably at both. This deficiency is compounded when students move up to more advanced economic theory courses. Because they have not learned math, they struggle with courses that attempt to combine economic theories with math. The question is, then, how do we teach math to students of economics?

As an instructor I have to admit that it is much easier for me to throw in a lot of math. Why? Because I don’t have to come up with any creative means to promote the understanding of economic theory, I only have to confuse the students with the illustration of that theory. So, what to do?

I propose the following:

  • Do away with basic, stand-alone math econ courses.
  • Combine basic algebra and calculus with principles of economics courses
  • Include required intermediate math econ courses

These steps with insure that basic math is taught to economics students within an economics context and provide a mechanism for continued learning.