Red paperclip challenge teaches students about capitalism

Photo courtesy of Liz West, Wikimedia Commons

By Kimberley Perez

For years, economics teacher Robin Moreno has gone above and beyond in teaching her students about capitalism in an exciting way. Moreno got the idea from a video she saw on Canadian blogger Kyle MacDonald who traded his way from a red paperclip to a house through a series of 14 online trades. 

Although Moreno does not require students to trade on such a massive scale, she uses this simple game to show her students how our capital system works. The goal is to constantly trade for something bigger or better to maximize profit. 

“In past years my students have ended up with some pretty amazing final trades. One student even traded up to a car. So yes, there’s definitely a lesson in the activity, but it is also an engaging and fun way to learn about capitalism,” Moreno said.

To students, this may feel like less of an assignment and more of an adventure. The best way to learn is through experience, and it is crucial that students learn about our economy.

“Personally, I feel like the red paperclip trade challenge is just a fun activity that helps the students engage in economic activity,” senior Samantha Anaya said.

It is important to understand the reality of our economy and how it works. This activity appeals to all types of learners and anyone can participate. 

“It taught me how to bargain and how to be a salesman in order to sell the item that I have. It teaches you some life skills that you are going to need later,” senior Malachi Atkins said.

In order to become accustomed to the way our complicated society works, students need experience, and it is always good to get a head start. Students who play the red paperclip game are already engaging in activities they will experience in the adult and working world.

“Capitalism at its core is made up of millions of voluntary exchanges that occur every day. The idea I want to get across to students is that when we exchange with others, both parties benefit,” Moreno said.

All in all, teachers are always coming up with creative ways to convey their lessons to students and this is just one example of that.