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Professor uses baseball to teach economics

July 05, 2012 12:00AM

On Tuesday, Dr. Kenny McDougle peppered his students with baseball statistics. They learned which players provided the best return on investment for team owners and whether player salaries had any correlation to winning percentages. They speculated on whether it was smarter to draft a player right out of high school or wait until they finished playing college ball.

McDougle, a professor of teaching and leadership at Pittsburg State University, wasn’t training hopeful baseball managers. He was helping elementary and secondary teachers add another approach to their collection of tools for teaching youngsters economics. McDougle teaches a variety of similar summer economics workshops in which he uses everything from puppets to Play-Do to drive home the lessons.

“We can look around us every day and see economics at work,” McDougle said. “If a teacher can demonstrate basic economic principles with something their students can relate to, like baseball, their students are more likely to understand and retain what they have learned.”

For his class, McDougle drew from economist J.C. Bradbury’s 2010 book, “Hot Stove Economics.” In that book, Bradbury applied the rules of economics to try to determine what baseball players are really worth. McDougle also showed clips from the hit movie, “Moneyball,” which is based on the Oakland A’s 2002 season and manager Billy Beane’s attempt to put together a winning team without a big budget.

McDougle admits to being a big sports fan, but he said he was not himself a star athlete.

“Actually, I transferred high schools in the 11th grade to get into a better band program,” McDougle laughed.

The point of the class, McDougle said, wasn’t to teach students about baseball or to appeal only to die-hard baseball fans. It was to show teachers how they could use baseball, or any other professional sport, to teach economics.

©2012 Pittsburg State University