A Curriculum Planning Guide for Nebraska Schools

Based on the Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics
National Council on Economic Education, 1997

The planning guide is designed to help educators target the economic concepts that should be introduced in the elementary grades. The concepts are based on national voluntary standards and can easily be used as districts and teachers revise their curriculum to meet the Nebraska Learns standards.

Teachers who would like help selecting teaching activities for classroom use should contact their local Center for Economic Education or use the Virtual Economic CD-ROM.



At the completion of kindergarten students should know that

  1. People make choices because they canít have everything they want.
  2. Economic wants are desires that can be satisfied by consuming a good, a service or leisure activity.
  3. Goods are objects that can satisfy peopleís wants.
  4. Services are actions that can satisfy peopleís wants.

At the completion of kindergarten students might use this knowledge to do the following assignments.

  1. Identify some choices they have made and explain why they had to make a choice.
  2. Match a list of wants with the correct examples of a good, service or leisure activity that satisfies each want.
  3. Create a collage representing goods that they or their families consume.
  4. Role-play services that they or their families consume.


At the completion of first grade students should know that

  1. Peopleís choices about what goods and services to buy and consume determine how resources will be used.
  2. Whatever a choice is made something is given up.
  3. The opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative given up.
  4. Productive resources are the natural resources, human resources, and capital goods available to make goods and services.
  5. Natural resources, such as land, are "gifts of nature;" they are present without human intervention.
  6. Human resources are the quality and quantity of human effort directed toward producing goods and services.

At the completion of first grade students might use this knowledge to do the following assignments.

  1. Explain why a choice must be made when given some land and a list of alternative uses for the land.
  2. Choose a toy from a list of four toys and state what was given up.
  3. Describe a situation that requires a choice, make a decision, and identify the opportunity cost.
  4. Identify examples of natural resources, human resources, and capital goods, used in the production of a given product.
  5. Use a resource map of the state to locate examples of natural resources.
  6. Draw pictures representing themselves as workers. Also identify examples of human resources used in the production of education at their school.


At the completion of second grade students should know that

  1. People who make goods and provide services are called producers.
  2. People whose wants are satisfied by using goods and services are called consumers.
  3. Most people produce and consume. As producers they make goods and services; as consumers they use goods and services.
  4. Producers use natural resources, human resources, and capital goods, (not money) to make goods and services.
  5. Labor is a human resource that is used to produce goods and services.
  6. People can earn income by exchanging their human resources (physical or mental work) for wages or salaries.
  7. Capital goods are goods that are produced and used to make other goods and services.
  8. Human capital refers to the quality of labor resources, which can be improved through investments in education, training, and health.
  9. Division of labor occurs when the production of a good is broken down into numerous separate tasks, with different workers performing each task.
  10. Specialization and division of labor usually increases the productivity of workers.
  11. Economic specialization occurs when people concentrate their production on fewer kinds of goods and services than they consume.
  12. Greater specialization leads to increasing interdependence among producers and consumers.

At the completion of second grade students might use this knowledge to do the following assignments.

  1. Identify producers of five different types of goods and five different types of services.
  2. Examine pictorial examples of people using goods and services and identify the goods and services being consumed.
  3. Identify people who are acting as consumers and provide examples of situations in which students were consumers of goods and services. Identify people who are acting as producers, and provide examples of situations in which students produced goods and services.
  4. Explain why, when given money, they are unable to produce paperweights to sell at the upcoming school craft fair unless they exchange the money for productive resources.
  5. Identify human resources in their community and the goods and services they produce.
  6. Collect data from adults regarding their reasons for working, analyze the data, and generalize about why people work.
  7. Draw a picture representing a capital good used at school. Also, identify examples of capital goods used to produce a good or service in their community.
  8. Give examples of how to improve their human capital. Explain how an athlete invests in his or her human capital.
  9. Participate in a simulated assembly line and identify the separate operations and the different task involved.
  10. Work individually to produce a product and then work as a member of a small group to produce the same product. Explain why more goods usually are produced when each member of the group performs a particular task in making a good.
  11. Name several adults in the school or community who specialize in the production of a good or service (e.g., baker, law enforcement officer, teacher, etc.) and identify other goods and services that these individuals consume but do not produce for themselves.
  12. Compare the extent of specialization and interdependence of a shipwrecked sailor living on an isolated Pacific island with a family that owns a cattle ranch in New Mexico.


By the completion of third grade students should know that

  1. When workers learn and practice new skills, they are improving their human capital.
  2. Workers can improve their productivity by improving their human capital.
  3. Workers can improve their productivity by using physical capital such as tools and machinery.
  4. Entrepreneurs are people who organize other productive resources to make goods and service.
  5. No method of distributing goods and services can satisfy all wants.
  6. Few choices are all-or-nothing decisions; they usually involve getting more of one thing by giving up a little of something else.
  7. A benefit is what satisfies your wants.
  8. A cost is what you give up when you deicide to do something.
  9. Money is anything widely accepted as final payment for goods and services.
  10. Money makes trading easier by replacing barter with transactions involving currency, coins, or checks.
  11. People consume goods and services, not money; money is useful primarily because it can be used to buy goods and services.
  12. Most countries create their own currency for use as money.
  13. Exchange is trading goods and services with people for other goods and services or for money.
  14. People voluntarily exchange goods and services because they expect to be better off after the exchange.
  15. The oldest form of exchange is barter- the direct trading of goods and services between people.
  16. A market exists whenever buyers and sellers exchange goods and services.
  17. Competition takes place when there are many buyers and sellers of similar products.
  18. Responses to incentives are predictable because people usually pursue their self-interest.
  19. Changes in incentives cause people to change their behavior in predictable ways.
  20. Penalties are negatives incentives that make people worse off.
  21. Rewards are positive incentives that make people better off.
  22. Both positive and negative incentives affect peopleís costs and behavior.
  23. Both positive and negative incentives affect peopleís choices and behavior.

At the completion of third grade students might use this knowledge to do the following assignments.

  1. Explain why professional athletes often have training equipment in their homes.
  2. Make an origami bird out of paper with no instructions, record how long it took to make the bird and discuss the quality of the finished product. After receiving instruction on how to make the bird, and given time to practice, repeat the activity, record how long it takes to make the bird, and compare the quality of the birds produced with and without instructions and practice.
  3. Complete a basic math worksheet using pencil and paper in a given amount of time; correct the work and record the number of problems completed and the number of correct answers. Repeat the activity, using calculators; correct the work and record the number of problems completed and the number of correct answers and explain the differences in results.
  4. Select an entrepreneur and identify the productive resources the entrepreneur used to produce a good or service.
  5. Generate different methods of allocating student time on class computers, tell who gains and who loses with each distribution method, and conclude that no distribution method satisfies all wants.
  6. Analyze how to divide their time on Saturday afternoon when the possibilities are raking leaves to earn money, going roller skating with friends, and shopping at the mall with their aunt. Students will identify the possible uses of their time and explain how devoting more time to one activity leaves less time for another.
  7. List the benefits of buying and caring for a pet.
  8. List the costs of buying and caring for a pet.
  9. Identify things that have been used as money at different times and in different societies. Explain why some things can be used effectively for money and something cannot.
  10. List five goods and services they want, and describe ways of obtaining these goods and services, without using money. Then explain why using money makes it easier to get the same five items.
  11. Decide whether they would rather have a suitcase full of money or one of food when stranded on a deserted island and explain their answer.
  12. Identify the currencies they would want to buy if they were going on a trip to Brazil, France, Romania, Vietnam, Australia, Japan, and Kenya.
  13. Identify exchanges they have made and tell whether they were monetary or barter exchanges.
  14. Describe a trade they have made, such as one with baseball cards, stickers, or lunch desserts, and explain why they agreed to trade.
  15. Identify current and historical examples of barter exchanges.
  16. Give examples of markets in which buyers and sellers meet face-to-face and other markets where buyer sellers never meet.
  17. Identify competitors in their community, using the yellow pages of the telephone book.
  18. Explain why they would be willing to shovel snow when temperatures are below freezing, mow a law when their friends are going to a movie, or baby-sit on a weekend evening instead of going with friends to a dance.
  19. Predict how students study habits will change if the grading system changes from letter grades to pass/fail or no grades.
  20. List examples of penalties or negative incentives that discourage inappropriate behavior at home.
  21. List examples of rewards that are incentives for positive classroom behavior.
  22. Identify the incentives that would encourage them to read a book, to return their library books on time, to repay the money they borrow form the school cafeteria for lunch, and to complete their homework assignments on time; explain why various students respond differently to incentives to do these things. Also, explain why some students will do extra credit work and some will not.
  23. Identify example of incentive and categorize them as positive or negative.


By the completion of fourth grade student should know that

  1. A price is what people pay when they buy a good or a service, and what they receive when they sell a good or a service.
  2. When people buy something, they value it more than it costs them; when people sell something, they value it less than the payment they receive.
  3. Market prices are determined through the buying and selling decisions made by buyers and sellers.
  4. Scarcity requires the use of some method of distribution, whether the method is selected explicitly or not.
  5. There are different ways to distribute goods and services (by prices, command, majority rule, contests, force, first-come/first served, sharing equally, lottery, personal characteristics, and others,) and there are advantages and disadvantages to each.
  6. To determine the best level of consumption of a product, people must compare the additional benefits with the additional costs of consuming a little more or a little less.
  7. Sellers complete on the basis of price, product quality, customer service, product design and variety, and advertising.
  8. Competition among sellers results in lower costs and prices, higher product quality, a better customer service.
  9. Completion among buyers of a product results in higher product prices.
  10. Markets are interrelated; changes in the price of one good or service can lead to changes in price of many other goods and services.
  11. An increase in the price of a good or a service enables producers to cover higher per-cost causing the quality supplied to increase, and vice versa. This relationship between price and quantity supplied is normally true as long as other factors influencing costs of production and supply do not change.
  12. An increase in the price of a good or service encourages people to look for substitutes, causing the quality demanded to decrease, and vice versa. This relationship between price and quality demanded, known as the law of demand, exists as long as other factors influencing demand do not change.
  13. High prices for a good or service provide incentive for buyers to purchase less of that good or service, and for producers to make or sell more of it.
  14. The market clearing or equilibrium price for a good or service is the one price at which quality supplied equals quality demanded.
  15. If a price is above the market clearing price, it will fall, causing sellers to produce less and buyers to purchase more; if it is below the market clearing price, it will rise, causing sellers to produce more and buyers to purchase less.
  16. Employers are willing to pay wages and salaries to workers because they expect to be able to sell the goods and services that those workers produce at prices high enough to cover the wages and salaries and all other costs of production.
  17. To earn income people sell productive resources. These include labor, capital, natural resources and entrepreneurial talents.
  18. A wage or salary is the price of labor; it usually is determined by the supply of and demand for labor.
  19. More productive workers are likely to be of greater value to employers and earn higher wages than less productive workers.
  20. Peopleís incomes, in part reflect choices they have made about education, training, skill development, and careers. People with few skills are more likely to be poor.
  21. An invention is a new product. Innovation is the introduction of an invention into a use that has economic value.
  22. Entrepreneurs are individuals who are willing to take risks, to develop new products, and start new businesses. They recognize opportunities, like working for themselves, and accept challenges.
  23. Entrepreneurs often are innovative. They attempt to solve problems by developing and marketing new or improved products.
  24. Entrepreneurs compare the expected benefits of entering a new enterprise with the expected costs.
  25. Entrepreneurs accept the risks in organizing resources to produce goods and services because they hope to earn profits.
  26. In addition to profits, entrepreneurs respond to other incentives including the opportunity to be their own boss, the chance to achieve recognition, and the satisfaction of creating new products or improving existing ones. In addition to financial losses, other disincentives to which entrepreneurs respond include the responsibility, long hours, and stress of running a business.

At the completion of fourth grade students might use this knowledge to do the following assignments.

  1. Identify prices they have paid for a hamburger, French fries, and a soda, and prices they have received for selling lemonade, feeding a neighborís pet while the owner is gone, or doing certain household chores.
  2. Describe recent monetary transactions they have made; as buyer or sellers. Explain why they were willing to trade.
  3. Play a market game in which buyers and sellers determine the market price of a common product, for example wheat, apples, or baseballs.
  4. Describe the distribution methods used to allocate a variety of goods and services, such as parking spaces, access to new drug treatments for cancer, seats on a bus, milk, and tickets to a popular event. Then explain why a distribution method is necessary.
  5. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of allocating various goods and services, such as cookies, houses, student time on playground equipment at recess, elective class offices, military service in times of war and peace, and athletic championships.
  6. Solve the following problem: your grandmother gives you $30 for your birthday and you are trying to decide how to spend it. You do not have to spend it all on one thing. You can use some of the money for one thing, and some for another. How would you spend your money to get the greatest satisfaction?
  7. Give examples of price and non-price competition in the athletic shoe market.
  8. Explain how the opening of a second pizza shop in a small community affects prices, profits, services, and quality.
  9. Play several rounds of a market game in which the number of buyers is changed dramatically in each round and explain the impact of these changes on price.
  10. Explain how a decrease in the price of VCRs can cause a decrease in the price of popcorn at movie theatres.
  11. State the number of push-ups they would be willing and able to supply at various prices. State a generalization about the relationship between price, cost, and quality supplied from the data.
  12. Survey students in other classes at school regarding how many glasses of orange juice they would be willing and able to buy at various prices. Analyze the data to show the relationship between prices and quality demanded. Identify substitutes studentsí use when prices are higher.
  13. Predict how consumers would react if the price of pencils rose to $10 each and explain the prediction. Predict how they would react if the price fell to $.01 and explain the prediction. Explain how producers of pencils would react in each situation.
  14. Determine the market-clearing price when given a supply schedule and a demand schedule for compact disks.
  15. Identify examples of products for which the price fell because sellers were unable to sell all they had produced; identify examples of other products for which the price rose because consumers wanted to buy more than producers were producing.
  16. Ask owners of fast food restaurants why they are willing to pay a wage or salary to workers and conclude that restaurant owners do so because they expect to be able to sell the food and services produced at a price high enough to cover the wages and salaries and all other costs of production.
  17. Survey several adults regarding their sources of income, and conclude that the largest portion of personal income for most people comes form wages and salaries.
  18. Participate in a market simulation as employers and employees to determine wage rates for labor.
  19. Decide which workers to hire and explain the hiring decisions, given a list of job applicants with different levels of productivity.
  20. Consider a career choice, research the amount of education required and the medium income for this career. Identify reasons why high school dropouts frequently end up in poverty.
  21. Identify three examples each of inventions and innovations.
  22. Read a childrenís book about an entrepreneur. Identify the main characterís entrepreneurial characteristics and compare their own entrepreneurial characteristics with those of the main character.
  23. Solve a problem by creating a new use for an existing product such as a wire coat hanger, thimble, or shoulder pads. Also develop an advertising campaign for their new product.
  24. Read short biographies of various entrepreneurs and identify the risk each entrepreneur faced and the entrepreneurís incentives for accepting the risk.
  25. Read short biographies of several entrepreneurs, list the pertinent characteristics of each entrepreneur, and make generalization about the non-financial incentives that motivate entrepreneurs and the risks or disincentives entrepreneurs face.
  26. Interview an entrepreneur to learn why she/he was willing to start a new business.


At the completion of the fifth grade students should understand

  1. As consumers, people use resources in different ways to satisfy different wants. Productive resources can be used in different ways to produce different goods and services.
  2. Choices involve trading off the expected value of one opportunity against the expected value of ití best alternative.
  3. As a store of value, money makes it easier for people to save and defer consumption until the future.
  4. Saving is the part of income not spent on taxes and consumption.
  5. Banks are institutions where people save money and earn interest, and where other people borrow money and pay interest.
  6. Banks and other financial institutions channel funds from savers to borrowers and investors.
  7. Voluntary exchange amount people or organizations in different countries give people a boarder range of choices in buying goods and services.
  8. Free trade increases worldwide materials standards of living.
  9. Exports are domestic goods and services that are sold to buyers in other nations.
  10. Like trade among individuals within one country, international trade promotes specialization and division of labor and increases output and consumption.
  11. Imports are foreign goods and services that are purchased from sellers in other countries.
  12. Money encourages specialization by decreasing the costs for exchange.
  13. As a unit of account, money is used to compare the market value of different goods and services.
  14. An exchange rate is the price of one nationís currency in terms of anotherís currency. Like other prices, the forces of supply and demand determine exchange rates. Foreign exchange markets allocate international currencies.
  15. Despite the mutual benefits form trade among people of different countries, many nations employ trade barriers to restrict free trade for national defiance reasons or because some companies and workers are hurt by free trade.

By the completion of fifth grade students might use this knowledge to do the following assignments.

  1. List the resources used to produce some item and identify other items that could have been made from these resources.
  2. Determine the criteria for selecting a stereo and identify the trade-offs made when selecting one stereo over another.
  3. Demonstrate their understanding of money as a "store of value" in responding to the following; a tomato farmer wants to save money for his five-year-old daughterís college education. Why is he better off selling his tomatoes for money and saving the money than he would be if he saved tomatoes to exchange for his daughterís tuition when she reached age 18?
  4. Plan a budget for an allowance. The budget will include spending for goods and services, charitable donations, sales taxes, and savings.
  5. Explain the relationship between saving money and earning interest and borrowing money and paying interest, after participating in an activity in which they role pay savers and borrowers.
  6. Listen to a presentation on the roles banks play in channeling funds form savers to borrowers and investors and draw a diagram showing the role that financial intermediaries play among savers, borrowers, and investors.
  7. Describe how their daily lives would be different if people in the Unites states did not trade with people in other countries.
  8. Identify the benefits when a trade barrier such as sugar or automobile import quota is eliminated.
  9. Determine what major products are produced in their community for export and to the countries to which they are exported.
  10. Explain why Canada produces relatively more ice hockey players and the United States produces relatively more baseball players.
  11. Examine labels of products in their homes and compile a list of imported products and the countries from which they are imported.
  12. Explain how life might change for Dr. Hart, who specializes as a cardiologist, and for others in the community, if our society became a barter economy.
  13. Explain how they can use relative prices to compare the value of three different fruits.
  14. Calculate the exchange rates for various goods and services and express the prices for these items in several different countriesí currency.
  15. Look for historical examples of times when the US has imposed trade barriers and explain why US citizens would impose trade barriers given the mutual benefits of free trade.


By the completion of sixth grade students should know that

  1. Scarcity is the condition of not being able to have all the goods and services that one wants. It exists because human wants for goods and services exceed the quantity of goods and services that can be produced using all available resources.
  2. Governments provide certain kinds of goods and services in a market economy.
  3. Scarce goods and services are allocated in a market economy through the influence of prices on production and consumption decisions.
  4. Most federal government tax revenue comes from personal income tax and payroll taxes. Payments to social security recipients, the cost of national defense, medical expenditures, and interest payments on national debt constitute the bulk of federal spending.
  5. Public goods and services provide benefits to more than one person at a time and their use cannot be restricted to only those people who have paid to use them.
  6. Governments pay for goods and services they use or provide by taxing or borrowing from people.
  7. Most states and local governments revenues come from sales taxes, grants from the federal government, personal income taxes and property taxes. The bulk of state and local government revenue is spent for education, public welfare, road construction and repair and public safety.
  8. Like individuals, governments and societies experience scarcity because human wants exceed what can be made from all available resources.
  9. Unemployment exists when people who are willing and able to work do not have jobs.
  10. There are essential differences between a market economy, in which allocations result from individuals making decisions as buyers and sellers, and a command economy, in which a central authority allocates resources.
  11. The choices that people make have both present and future consequences.
  12. The evaluation of choices and opportunity costs is subjective; such evaluations differ across individuals and societies.
  13. People in all economies must address three questions; What goods and services will be produced? How will these goods and services be produced? Who will consume them?
  14. As a result of growing international economic interdependence, economic conditions and policies in one nation increasingly affect economic conditions and policies in other nations.
  15. National economics vary in the extent to which they rely on government directives (central planning) and signals from private markets (prices) to allocate scarce goods and services, and productive resources.

At the completion of sixth grade students might use this knowledge to do the following assignments.

  1. Analyze a situation in which scarcity exists and explain why not all choices are possible because of the scarcity of available resources.
  2. Brainstorm a list of goods and services not privately produced and explain how these goods and services are paid for.
  3. Scarce goods and services are allocated in a market economy through the influence of prices on production and consumption decisions.
  4. Use data from the US federal budget to construct two pie charts, one representing major categories of federal revenue and one representing major categories of federal expenditures.
  5. Explain why tax dollars are used to produce national defense, elementary school education, and roads. Explain why without government, these services would not be provided the private sector.
  6. Apply knowledge of the role of government in the economy in responding to the following question; Your community wants a new bridge. Who will pay for this bridge and how will they get the money? Why is this the best way to pay for the bridge?
  7. Compare the various sources of state and local revenue and various categories of state and local expenditures in their state and community with those for the federal government.
  8. Role-play a city council meeting called to allocate a budget of $100,000. Explain why choice must be made, decide how the council should spend its money and describe the trade-offs made. Identify the opportunity costs of the decisions.
  9. Apply the standard definition of an unemployed person by explaining why retired people and students are not considered to be unemployed.
  10. Compare the methods used to allocate work responsibilities in homes with those used to allocate responsibilities in business. Compare the advantages and disadvantages of different economic systems used in different countries and at different times. Using the broad social goals such as freedom, efficiency, fairness, and growth.
  11. Analyze the consequences of choosing not to study for a final exam and identify when those consequences occur.
  12. Individually develop a solution to a problem that affects everybody in the class and identify the opportunity costs. Compare the solutions and explain why solutions and opportunity costs differ among students.
  13. Answer the three economic questions while producing a simple classroom product, such as a bracelet, greeting cards, or decorations for a school dance.
  14. Explain how a tariff on imported cacao beans affects the production of chocolate bars in the United States and how it affects people in the cacao growing countries.
  15. Compare the relative size and responsibilities of government in several countries.