Teaching With Pop Culture

Image by Andy Hermawan

Teaching Recommendations

Teaching with pop culture media provides educators with a lot of flexibility in how to assess student learning or to engage students with course material. The primary purpose of using media in the classroom should be to improve the learning of key concepts. For students who have seen Squid Game, the scenes will build on their prior knowledge of the show and represent a shallow form of scaffolding. For students who are unfamiliar with the show, the scenes can be used as a learning hook that demonstrates the application of the material in unfamiliar ways. One of the cognitive challenges of teaching economics is overcoming students' misconceptions about what counts as an economic application (Chew & Cerbin 2020). We believe that using pop culture in the classroom allows educators to expand the variety of applications of new economic concepts for students. Instead of asking students to consider the tradeoffs of producing widgets, educators can present a short clip showing characters from a popular television show forced to consider the tradeoffs of a particular decision. 

Given the nature of the show, we would be remiss to not mention that Squid Game contains subject matter not suitable for all classrooms. We would not recommend using Squid Game in an elementary school lesson on tradeoffs, but we do believe the clips we have selected are appropriate for a variety of classrooms, despite the show’s overall violent themes.  We took great care to limit or minimize violent scenes in the clips on the site, but educators should still view clips in their entirety or check with appropriate administrators before integrating them into the curriculum. 

The integration strategies are varied and can range from classroom response systems (clickers) to think-pair-share activities to discussion board assignments. You can access popular resources below by clicking on the text associated with each method. Each assessment technique requires different competencies, but may not be appropriate for every class. For educators who are unfamiliar with different assessment strategies, we recommend consulting The Handbook for Economic Lecturers. The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College also has a dedicated section on using media to enhance teaching and learning.

Teaching With the Economics of Squid Game Website

Below we have developed a series of teaching guides that show how to directly integrate clips from the site into your curriculum. Each teaching guide provides a brief summary of the lesson, an overview of the relevant scene, and some assessment questions with suggested answers. Click the title or image to visit the associated resource.

Players in the game must decide which type of game to play, but some games are sequential while others are simultaneous. This lesson has been adapted to include a Kahoot! game to be played in class.

Image by The Ian

Your income has a big impact on your purchases, and differences in relative income can explain different consumption patterns. In this scene, we learn the difference between what a poor man eats vs. a rich family.

Image by Markus Winkler

Changing the factors of production can have a big impact on productivtiy. In this scene, players need to be productive in chiseling away a particular shape. Some players learn how to improve their productivity.

Image by Andy Hermawan

When faced with a high probability of death, people will change their behavior in predictable ways. As people gather more information, and the likelihood of survival increases, players may become more confident.

Image by Ivan Vranić

What should you do when you don't know what everyone else is going to do? This guide has students consider what's in each players' best interest when the lights go off and violence ensues.

Image by Cherry Laithang

At the end of the first game, 255 players have been eliminated, so the jackpot currently stands at SK ₩25.5 billion. Your students may wonder how this compares to US dollars. This guide will help them learn the process.

Image by Alexander Schimmeck

Some people prefer payoffs that have a low probability of success if the payoff is large enough. Other players would prefer to avoid risky options and opt for a safer (albeit lower-paying) payoff. 

Image by Vadim Bogulov