AP Economics: All Profit, No Loss

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 4.05.44 PM“Honestly? I really wasn’t at all certain I could do the job,” said NDP alum (Class of ’94) and current NDP faculty member, Barbara Mantler.  The job she referred to was taking over the Advanced Placement (AP) Economics class this year after the legendary Mrs. Ann Klaes – whose NDP career spanned more than 4 decades – retired from teaching in 2013.

“I just wasn’t sure I could step into her shoes,” lamented Mrs. Mantler with unnecessary uncertainty. “Ann was a tough act to follow.”

Mrs. Klaes’s legacy as a favorite teacher is, indeed, renowned and admittedly hers were some big shoes to fill. Still, if anyone could do it, it was (is) Barbara Mantler. For starters, she studied economics in college and loves math and the social sciences. Plus, she’s a natural in the classroom. And on top of all that, her husband is a bond trader and her aunt was CFO of Constellation Energy. Together, they convinced her she should take over the class (she already had been teaching World Cultures at NDP for 14 years). She did take it over and as expected, she is a big hit.

I visited the class recently to talk with Mrs. Mantler and her students about the Stock 10545263_lMarket Game they are currently involved in playing as a class. Mrs. Mantler was just wrapping up her econ lesson for the day. Because it is an AP class with a hefty work- load, they don’t always get through all the material in class. If they don’t, it is up to the girls to study the remaining material on their own.

“So, girls, I’ll have to ‘screen cast’ the rest of the lesson,” Mrs. Mantler explained, referring to a method by which she records and posts the material on line for the girls to listen to and absorb on their own time.  A collective groan ensues.

“Would it help if I record it in an accent?” Mrs. Mantler asked the girls, always looking for a way to make the lesson fun and enjoyable.

“Yes!” The girls squealed with delight, at which point they also threw out suggestions as to what accent she should adopt:

“Scottish!”

“German!”

“Latvian!”

As I sat down to discuss the game with her while the girls worked independently, Mrs. Mantler confided,

“It really doesn’t matter what accent they choose, somehow, I always end up sounding Chinese!”

10414614_lAs the girls worked, she and I discussed the class and the game.

“The AP class is for seniors and juniors who qualify. Usually it attracts girls who are interested in majoring in business or finance and if they do well in this class, they earn 3 college credits, which gets them out of Economics 101 once in college,” she explained.

” I concentrate on micro economics, meaning the big picture, the science of it and its systems, rather than macro economics or policy. ”

As part of the course, the girls play the Stock Market Game, which is sponsored by the 11725387_lCouncil for Economic Education. It’s played across the country and NDP competes directly against all the other schools in the Baltimore region (both public and private). The class is divided into 6 teams of 4 and each team is given $100,000 to invest. Although I didn’t ask, I can only assume we are talking about Monopoly money, not real money. Otherwise, I want in on the action.

“The girls can only invest in companies that are listed on the New York Stock Exchange. And they have to buy a minimum of 100 shares per company. They can’t buy ‘penny stocks’ or any stock whose shares go for less than $5. This teaches them to diversify.”

It also teaches them the difference between investing and gambling and some tougher lessons as well. The girls explained.

8114018_l“Well, we’ve learned the hard way that timing is everything,” said one member of a team called The Wolf Pack (they pick their own names; another team called themselves The Benjamins). “We bought Twitter the day before it took a dive and now we’re trying to make up our losses.”

“We’ve also learned there are some stocks we just can’t afford. Since we have to buy a minimum of a hundred shares, it automatically rules some stocks out because the cost of just one of their shares is too high.” Perhaps an important – if unintended – illustration of how the rich get richer.

The girls use tools like Yahoo Finance and the Wall Street Journal to help them research Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 4.07.42 PMand learn about businesses and stocks. Over the course of the game, each team must make at least 5 trades. Another way to teach them to diversify, be vigilant, watch the market, and not put all their eggs in one basket.

“Invest your money!” Mrs. Mantler encouraged as they studied their portfolios. In the end, the school whose portfolio increased most by the end of the 6 week game, wins. It’s a great lesson for the girls in fiscal responsibility. It’s also a golden opportunity for all involved to understand just how the economy and market works. If not literally, than certainly figuratively. On the other hand…

8114017_l“We invested in Tesla at the beginning and we’ve seen a 16% return on investment in just three weeks,” said the leader of The Benjamins. I want that kid for my broker in about 4 years. Truly though, it’s a win-win situation for all the students involved. The girls receive an invaluable education, learn important life lessons, and have a great teacher to guide them.

Now that’s real ROI.

PS: Note to self: Buy Tesla.

NDP GIRL

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