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How to introduce Game Theory to HS students without boring them

  1. May 11, 2010 #1
    I am to give a short presentation to high school students about game theory. How can I make it as to not make it boring for them? I don't think I'm going to use much mathematics because I doubt at their level that they're going to understand it that much if I delve too deep into the mathematics.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2010 #2
    Making little hands-on activities usually works. In fact now that I think about it we had a little game theory (notably Prisoner's dilemma) talk in economics back in highschool. We had a college professor come and talk to us and he used candy as the means to communicate, haha.

    I honestly don't know enough about the subject to give direct ideas, just a bit of observation on being on the student side.
  4. May 11, 2010 #3


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    How did he use candy? Did he use it as the reward?
  5. May 11, 2010 #4
    I dont remember the details but I remember using playing cards and candy. I'm pretty sure candy was the reward but I don't remember the manner of which we played.

    But it did involve us instead of just drawing a bunch of meaningless matrices with numbers in them. That usually keeps students awake which was my point.
  6. May 12, 2010 #5


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    I think game theory is one of the easiest subjects to make interesting to high school students: just play a game! First, describe the game, let them think about what the optimal strategy is, then actually play the game, and discuss the result.
  7. May 12, 2010 #6

    Andy Resnick

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  8. May 12, 2010 #7
    Something that will make it somewhat more exciting is if you bring a stack of small change and have them play game theory games for money. Something that will be exciting is if as a finale, you have reasonably large sums of money (say $20) and pick two people from the audience at random to play "prisoner's dilemma".
  9. May 13, 2010 #8
    I think the best way is to get them to play a few games and incorporate game theory into movies/tv shows they already know. Here are a few ideas:

    1. Dollar auction game
    A dollar is auctioned off to the class. The winner gets the dollar, but the hitch is the second highest bid has to pay but gets nothing. This game demonstrates the ideas of best response and irrational escalation. It hints at why political campaigns and lawsuits (both all-pay auctions) get overly expensive. Article on http://mindyourdecisions.com/blog/2008/09/09/business-drinking-and-the-dollar-auction-game/" [Broken] from my blog.

    2. Game theory in the Dark Knight
    There were a lot of game theory concepts in this Batman movie. I wrote about http://mindyourdecisions.com/blog/2008/08/19/game-theory-in-the-dark-knight-a-critical-review-of-the-opening-scene-spoilers/" [Broken].

    3. The Ultimatum game
    There is a pie of size 1. One person offers a split and the other can agree to it or not. If agreed the split goes through. Otherwise they both get nothing. The game theory solution is that the proposer can take most of the pie. In practice this is not possible because people get offended by low offers. There's a cute video of http://mindyourdecisions.com/blog/2009/11/03/the-ultimatum-game-played-by-children/" [Broken]

    4. http://mindyourdecisions.com/blog/2010/03/09/how-las-vegas-casinos-use-the-prisoners-dilemma-to-make-money/" [Broken]
    This is a real-life example of a situation resembling the Prisoner's dilemma. My friend was playing a poker tournament. A $65 buy-in gave 2,500 chips, but for $5 more you can get 3,000 chips. What do you do? Obviously you buy more chips at a lower cost. The hitch is that this extra $5 does not contribute to the pool of winnings--it goes directly to the house. Everyone would be better off by not buy extra and dilute the chips, but no one can enforce this so everyone buys in extra and everyone is worse off.

    Hope these examples help!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  10. May 13, 2010 #9
    Thanks for the suggestions, but I only have 10 mins for my presentation. I wonder if that would be enough for an interesting introduction?
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