FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 24, 2010
MUW professor uses `The Simpsons’ to teach economics
By Jill D. O'Bryant
COLUMBUS, Miss. -- Who would have ever thought a cartoon such as "The Simpsons" could be used as a tool in the classroom?
Dr. Andrew Luccasen, assistant professor of finance and economics at Mississippi University for Women, uses clips from well-known cartoons to help his students understand economic principles, and a paper he has co-written about it will be featured in an upcoming issue of The American Economist.
The paper, "Teaching Macroeconomic Principals Using Animated Cartoons," is co-authored by his wife Kathleen Thomas and graduate school friend Michael Hammock. The paper explains how scenes from various cartoons, such as “The Simpsons," "Futurama," "DuckTales" and "Beavis and Butthead," can explain economic concepts.
This paper is a sequel to the paper "Simpsonomics: Teaching Economics Using Episodes of The Simpsons," which was co-written with his wife and published by the Journal of Economic Education in the April-June 2010 issue.
"Years ago, I would often discuss these scenes with classes," said Luccasen. "With DVR technology now commonly available, I was able to record the scenes (permissible under the ‘fair use' clause in copyright law with regard to education) and actually play them in class. We realized other educators may be interested in using these scenes in their classes, so Kathleen, Michael and I decided to write a paper with our favorite examples.
"Not only do these scenes illustrate complex economic concepts with easy-to-understand examples, they also provide a nice break from the typical structure of a class. That is, taking a break from class discussion or a lecture to watch a video can recapture student attention. Plus, they are often memorable examples which make it easier for students to recall the examples come test time.
An example of using this method is showing a clip from "Beavis and Butthead" in the classroom to help his students understand the concept of velocity of money which has the textbook definition of being equal to nominal GDP divided by the money supply.
In "Beavis and Butthead," the two characters must sell candy bars for their school. The candy bars cost $2 each, and they each have 100 bars to sell. While trying to find people to sell the candy to, Butthead borrows $1 from Beavis. Butthead now has $2 and buys a candy bar from Beavis. Beavis takes the $2 he now has, and buys a candy bar from Butthead. They continue to trade the $2 back and forth, buying candy bars, until they have eaten them all.
"Two one-dollar bills is enough to buy $400 worth of candy bars because money has velocity," Luccasen explains. "With this example in mind, one can better understand a more intuitive definition of velocity, which is the average number of times a dollar is used to buy something."
Dr. Scott Tollison, chair of the Department of Business and Legal Studies, is excited about Dr. Luccasen's teaching method.
"As the paper deals with pedagogy, it is exactly the type of paper that not only furthers research in his field, but also helps him to improve the quality of instruction he offers to students here at The W," Tollison said. "It is highly innovative and highly relevant to today's students."
Luccasen, who is in his first semester at MUW, earned his undergraduate degree from Birmingham-Southern College. He received a master's degree from Vanderbilt and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. Each degree is in economics.