Learning Economics with Minecraft: Choices, Costs and Benefits
Students will explore making choices by evaluating the costs and benefits and identifying the opportunity cost of decisions in the real world and by building in Minecraft.
This lesson is also posted on Minecraft Education's website of lesson plans. For more lesson plans using Minecraft, please visit: https://education.minecraft.net/class-resources/lessons/.
Making choices is an integral part of life and not always easy; however, it is necessary because our resources are always limited. You must weigh the pros (benefits) and cons (costs) to make the best possible decisions. When you do make a decision, there is always an opportunity cost.
Opportunity cost is the next best alternative given up when scarce resources are used for one purpose rather than another. If we use a limited resource such as time for one purpose, we give up the opportunity to use this resource for other purposes. For example, if you choose to do your laundry after work instead of going to a movie, you give up the opportunity to go to the movie. The term "opportunity cost" refers to the most desirable of the alternatives not chosen—your second-best alternative. In this case, the movie is the opportunity cost.
In this lesson, students explore how decisions are made by identifying costs, benefits, and opportunity cost. They collaborate in making a structure in Minecraft and discuss how their decisions were made and the opportunity costs incurred.
- Define costs, benefits, and opportunity cost.
- Articulate and analyze costs, benefits, and opportunity cost when making a choice.
- Evaluate costs, benefits, and opportunity cost in building a structure in Minecraft.
Start the lesson by writing the words “choices” and “decision” on the board. Explain that every day, we make hundreds of choices without giving much thought to them. Many of the choices we make are straightforward: what to wear to school, what to eat for breakfast, and so on. But there are other choices that require more thought before we make a decision, such as which sport or instrument to play.
Ask students what situations they can think of that require making choices. [Answers will vary but may include: What should I have for lunch? Should I spend my money or save it? Should I go to a movie with family or spend time playing at a friend’s house? Should I spend more time studying for an A or watching TV?]
Make the following point: Choices are made by people based upon their tastes, their income, needs, and the prices of goods or services. Tell the students: Every decision that you make will have some things that are good, called benefits, and some things that might not be so good, called costs. Benefits are things that are favorable to you as a decision maker, and costs are things that are unfavorable to you as a decision maker.
The best way to make a decision is to identify the costs and benefits of each choice and then compare them. Often it helps to write down the costs and benefits. Then you can look at the list, compare the pros and cons, and make an informed decision.
Tell the students: Suppose you are considering what to do after school. One option might be to play Minecraft or other video games. Let’s name some of the costs and benefits to help you decide. [Draw a costs and benefits grid on the board.] Ask students to name costs and benefits and write them on the board. [Costs might be spending too much time playing video games; not finishing homework; missing a favorite TV show. Benefits might be playing with friends; relaxation; having fun.]
Once you have listed two or three costs or benefits, tell students the next step is to make a choice. Making a choice means that you have to consider other alternatives. Suppose you only have an hour to engage in an activity after school and you have to decide between a number of choices. Tell the students they will explore their choices and be asked to make a decision.
Divide the students into groups of three. Each group must select a recorder. Distribute one copy of Handout 2 – Benefits and Costs Grid per group. Tell students to list at least two costs and two benefits for each alternative and determine which activity they will do after school. Tell them once they have completed the grid they will need to rank their choices (1 is the best, 3 is the worst choice). Tell them they can fill in the benefits and costs from the board for the first choice if they agree with them.
Discussion: Have groups share their decisions. Ask students why all groups did not make the same choice. [Different people have different interests and tastes; groups have different criteria.]
Ask each group what their second choice was. Explain that your second choice has a special name. It is called your opportunity cost. Explain that opportunity cost is your next best alternative that is given up when making a choice. It is your second choice. Your first choice has cost you the opporunity to do the second choice since you can only do one activity in that hour. Tell them to enter their opportunity cost on their handouts and turn them in.
MINECRAFT ACTIVITY (30 minutes)
1. Tell students that now their groups are going to do a Minecraft activity for 30 minutes involving choice and opportunity cost. They will fill out a decision making grid for what they choose to build.
2. Give each team member an iron shovel, iron pickaxe, iron hoe, and five pieces of steak.
3. Give each group a copy of Handout 3, Minecraft Choices Grid. Tell them they will first choose one project from the following list: a farm, a mining tunnel/cavern, or a fortress, by considering the costs and benefits.
4. Have them choose one person to record. Tell them to keep in mind their opportunity cost as they decide which project to build. They should fill out the grid before they start building.
5. Tell students they will have 30 minutes to complete their structures and handouts. Tell them to be ready to discuss their decisions.
6. Discussion: After the activity, discuss the costs and benefits of each structure in relation to the game rather than the real world and record them on the board. [See Handout 1 for possible answers.]
There is no extension activity for this lesson.
Write a paragraph discussing a choice your group made (type of material, design) in building your structure in Minecraft in terms of costs, benefits and opportunity cost. Be sure to use these three terms in your paragraph.