The VCU Center for Economic Education advances economics and personal finance education among Central Virginia's K-12 teachers and students. We do this in three ways: teaching; research and publications; and service and advocacy, which includes partnering with the Virginia Council on Economic Education on programs and academic competitions.

Teacher programs

The center conducts in-depth instruction that connects K-12 teachers with resources for bringing economics to life in the classroom. See upcoming sessions

An average year of teacher workshops by the numbers:

  • 400 participants
  • 4,200 contact hours
  • 20,000 K-12 students reached each year through their teachers
  • 60 teachers recognized as “Certified Economic Educators” for completing 40+ hours of training and demonstrating competence on a test of economics or personal finance
  • 1,600 students attended annual Mini-Economy Market Day.

Econ 203 for Future Teachers

The Center partners with the VCU School of Education and the Department of Economics to offer a special class for future teachers. This version of Econ 203 teaches both core undergraduate economics content, and provides pre-service teachers with methods and resources for teaching economics to their K-12 students. Jackie Herrman teaches Econ 203 in the fall semester, and Stephen Day teaches it in the spring semester. For more information, contact Stephen Day at shday@vcu.edu.

Feature program: The Mini-Economy

Create a startup culture in your classroom through our Mini-Economy program. This classroom simulation teaches concepts of entrepreneurship, economics and government with a focus on financial literacy and real-world market situations. Students establish their own society, design currency, plan and open businesses, and create a functioning government. 

Lesson Plans and Assessments

Our inquiry-focused lesson plans guide students to investigate social questions using economic reasoning to interpret relevant evidence.

The Mini-Economy Business Portfolio is a project-based lesson plan that asks students, “What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?” Each activity is geared toward helping students build a flourishing classroom business. The curriculum was developed by the VCU Center for Economic Education in partnership with veteran mini-economy classroom teachers. All materials and lessons available at www.vaminieconomy.org.

“Where to Go? New England, Mid-Atlantic, or the South?” A performance assessment for Virginia’s US History I course. Uses a lesson written by former center director Suzanne Gallagher to engage students in discussion about the incentives that early settlers followed when immigrating to the American colonies. Available through VCEE.

“Should We Tax Robots?” Uses the economic concept of productivity to examine the impact of automation on the U.S. workforce. Published in the National Council for the Social Studies’ book, Teaching the C3 Framework, vol. 2, 2017.

"What Can the Prices in my Local Store Tell Me About the World and its People?” elementary students use store prices as a starting point for global learning. Published in the National Council for the Social Studies’ book, Global Learning Based on the C3 Framework in the K-12 Social Studies Classroom, 2017.

“‘In’ or ‘Out’? What Defines Each Social Group?” A lesson that experiments with teaching students to collect, compile, analyze, and interpret survey data. Published in Social Education, vol. 81 no. 4, 2017.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Are the Presidential Candidates Telling the Whole Story?” Students watch clips froam campaign speeches and compare the forecasted effects of a Pacific trade deal on various U.S. industries. Published on EconEdLink.org 2016,

“How Has NAFTA Impacted the U.S. Economy?” Students examine data from the World Bank, Federal Reserve System, and Brookings Institution to decide a direction for U.S. economy policy. Published in Social Education, vol 78, no. 6, 2014. Available through ResearchGate.

Research and publications 

Our relationships with practicing teachers ensures that knowledge flows both ways. Our programs and teaching are based on research evidence, while we create practical classroom resources as well as new, generalizable knowledge through studying techniques at work in our programs.  Below are some examples:

A new test of economics teaching knowledge, adapted from German. Knowing economics and knowing how to teach economics are different things. This partnership with professors from Johannesburg Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, is allowing the Center to test its undergraduate students and workshop participants in what really matters. Presented at the 56th Annual Financial Literacy and Economic Education Conference, Brooklyn, NY, Oct. 7, 2017.

A better way to test K-5 students’ economics knowledge. Students build and operate classroom businesses using our center’s Mini-Economy program. Teachers assess their students’ application of newfound knowledge to entrepreneurial decisions. This design-based study also produced findings about performance assessments and inquiry learning. Presented at the National Council for the Social Studies’ College and University Faculty Assembly,
November 15, 2017. Preliminary results in this published dissertation, 2015.

An analysis of student views of risk-taking in the Stock Market Game. Studied which affects student views of financial risk more: market conditions or learning financial concepts. Read the article in the Journal of Consumer Education, vol. 30, 2014.

Co-edited book: “Teaching the C3 Framework (2014).”
A foray into teaching social studies using inquiry techniques, that is, investigating important social questions using disciplinary concepts to interpret evidence. A collaboration of curricular partners such as the Library of Congress, National Geographic, the National Archives, and more.

Service, Advocacy and Programs

The center works with the Virginia Council on Economic Education to serve thousands of teachers and students each year through programs such as: 

The center assists the Virginia Department of Education in questions related to economics and personal finance standards and curriculum. We are involved with the National Association of Economic Educators’ International Committee, and work with the national Council for Economic Education on curriculum, presentations, and national webinars. 

The center director serves on the advisory board to Money Matters to Students, a student-run organization that provides high schools the opportunity to teach the personal finance concepts they learn in school to elementary- and middle-grade students.

Programs

  • Mini-Economy Market DayEach spring, as many as 1,600 elementary-age students descend on VCU’s campus to see how their classroom business fares in a huge play-money market. Students buy and sell homemade lava lamps, hats, self-authored books, greetings cards, and hundreds of other products. Market Day is the culminating event in a classroom economy curriculum that seeks to educate young entrepreneurs. 
  • Stock Market GameThe Stock Market Game is a popular classroom investing simulation. The center offers training and resources for teachers and has conducted research into student outcomes. 
  • Governor’s Challenge in Economics and Personal FinanceAn online and live competition for high school students. Students compete first in regions around Virginia, with finalists meeting on VCU’s campus for the commonwealth-wide final.

Meet the Director

Stephen Day, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the School of Business and the director of the VCU Center for Economic Education. Day taught high school economics, government and world history for eight years in Raleigh, North Carolina, before becoming the programs director for the North Carolina Council on Economic Education. He moved to Richmond with his wife and children in 2014 and is delighted to live in a town with so many excellent coffee shops. Day holds a bachelor’s degree in social studies education from Purdue University, a master’s in economics and entrepreneurship education from the University of Delaware, and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with a focus on economics from North Carolina State University.

The VCU Center for Economic Education was founded in 1970 and received the 2006 Albert Beekhuis Award for Centers of Excellence in Economic Education, under the leadership of retired director Suzanne Gallagher.