Dr. Kenny McDougle peppered the students in one of his summer intersession classes with baseball statistics. They learned which players provided the best return on investment for team owners and whether player salaries had any correlation to winning percentages. They speculated on whether it was smarter to draft a player right out of high school or wait until they finished playing college ball.
McDougle, a professor of teaching and leadership, wasn’t training hopeful baseball managers. He was helping elementary and secondary teachers add another approach to their collection of tools for teaching youngsters about economics.
“Baseball Economics” was just one of three summer economics workshops in which he used everything from puppets to trees to drive home the lessons.
“We can look around us every day and see economics at work,” McDougle said. “If a teacher can demonstrate basic economic principles with something their students can relate to, like baseball or the environment, their students are more likely to understand and retain what they have learned.”
For his Baseball Economics class, McDougle drew from economist J.C. Bradbury’s 2010 book, “Hot Stove Economics.” In that book, Bradbury applied the rules of economics to try to determine what baseball players are really worth. McDougle also showed clips from the hit movie, “Moneyball,” which is based on the Oakland A’s 2002 season and manager Billy Beane’s attempt to put together a winning team without a big budget.
But the point of the class, McDougle said, wasn’t to teach students about baseball or to appeal only to die-hard baseball fans. It was to show teachers how they could use baseball, or a wide variety of other common themes, to teach economics.