The Price of Beanie Babies— and Other Web Wonders for K-6 Economics

Devon L. Yoho

Third graders shopping the Internet and discussing why scarcity influences the high price of Beanie Babies? This is just one example of how World Wide Web resources can enhance K-6 economics education, as elementary school teachers found in a two-day “Teaching and Learning Website Seminar” at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The seminar, held in the summer of 1997, gave the teachers an opportunity to (1) review state and national content standards in economics; (2) develop Web-enhanced economics lessons; and (3) evaluate a variety of Web resources for teaching K-6 economics.

Sponsored by the Indiana Center for the Advancement and Renewal of Teaching (a partnership of the Indiana State Teachers’ Association and the University of Indianapolis), the seminar is one of several initiatives in the state designed to help elementary and secondary school teachers use instructional technology to improve teaching and learning.1

Navigating for Examples and Standards

Most of the participants had never used the Web to augment their lessons. Indeed, a few teachers had never used the Web for any reason before the workshop. All, however, had taught economics at their grade level and had formal training in economics instruction.

The teachers began by locating the seminar online:

The website presents the seminar’s outcomes, program, and five lessons. The first lesson includes an introduction to the Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics2 (online at and the Indiana Proficiencies in Economics (

Teachers are then introduced to basic Web navigation techniques and they review the format for the Web-enhanced activity.

Online Lesson Plans

After identifying grade-appropriate standards, the teachers explored, with several clicks of the mouse, examples of ways to use Web resources to enhance economics instruction. The lessons, published by Access Indiana at their Teaching and Learning Center, are available on the Web at

The lessons are listed by grade level and topic, with their objectives, background, concepts, and activities and procedures listed as well. The Web resources needed to implement the lesson are hot-linked so that teachers can assess them directly from the lesson plan.

Because the goal of the seminar was to encourage teachers to use technology to augment—not to replace—sound economics instruction, these resources are not completely Web-based. For example, in “Opportunity Costs,”3 teachers are asked to use a long list of print and video resources, as well as websites in introducing the economics content. Students visit Kidshop Online (, an online catalog of a wide variety of children’s products. As they make their selections, teachers ask the students to complete the “Kids Shop On-line” worksheet, which asks them to identify the opportunity cost associated with their choices.

Anita Burt’s lesson plan on the subject of “Barter” at the Access Indiana website helps students understand that money makes trading easier by replacing barter with transactions involving currency, coins, or checks (Content Standard 11, Grade 4, Benchmark 2). Students explore Web sites such as “The Barter Story” and the “National Barter Network” to identify difficulties associated with a barter economy.

These lessons are designed to be implemented with students, but they represent only the teacher’s first “virtua#148; steps onto the Web. The next logical step—especially for teachers who now have a solid grounding in the use of the Web—is to create fully interactive Web-based lessons that teach students the conventional wisdom of economics.4

How Much is That Doggie in the Window? (And Why?)

Seminar participants developed a variety of lessons for a wide range of grade levels. Topics ranged from “Comparison Shopping for Airline Tickets” to “Buying a New Car On-line” to “Learning About Currencies.” Here is a summary of one of the lessons.

Title: “Why do Some Beanie Babies Cost More than Others?”

Grades: 3-4

Author: Esther Kathleen Bruner, Monroe Central Elementary, Monroe Central School Corporation, Parker City, Indiana

Objectives: Content Standard 8: Students will understand that prices send signals and provide incentives to buyers and sellers. When supply or demand changes, market prices adjust, affecting incentives. Students will be able to use this knowledge to predict how prices change when the number of buyers or sellers in a market changes, and explain how the incentives facing individual buyers and sellers are affected.

Grade 4, Benchmark 1: At the completion of Grade 4, students will know that high prices for a good or service provide incentives for buyers to purchase less of that good or service, and for producers to make or sell more of it. Lower prices for a good or service provide incentives for buyers to purchase more of that good or service, and for producers to make or sell less of it.


1. Each student will work with a partner to use “The Official Beanie Babies List” ( to develop a list of available Beanie Babies.

2. The student pairs will pick the two Beanie Babies they feel will have the greatest current value.

3. Student pairs should develop an explanation for their choices and be prepared to defend their choices to the class.

4. Teachers may have students plot or graph the choices and determine a “class choice.”

5. Students compare their choices (individually and as a class) to the price list found at the Toon Shop page (

6. What were their findings? The older the Beanie Baby, the more valuable. Discuss why this might be.

Caution!—Be careful that students do not actually purchase the Beanie Babies!

Assessment: Students should be able to discuss why the age of the Beanie Baby is related to its price and how the concept of scarcity influences the price. What other toys are priced based on scarcity? (Baseball cards, dolls, other collectibles, etc.)

Post-Test: A seminar “post-test” was prepared using the InQsit, a Web-based program designed at Ball State University to use the Internet to present questions, record answers, and return customized graded test results (you can visit the site at

Complying—Enjoyably— With Expectations

Increasingly, teachers are acquiring access to the Web in their classrooms or school computer labs and, with this improved access, community and school administrators expect them to include the Web in their teaching. This expectation is certainly reasonable in economics education; the Web offers a variety of interesting material that is consistent with national standards in economics.

Teachers with training and experience teaching economics can, with some assistance, identify ways Web resources can be used to enhance economic instruction. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to share their work with others by publishing the lessons on the Web.


1. The project was supported by the Indiana Department of Education and Access Indiana, an Internet service provider.

2. National Council on Economic Education, Voluntary National Content Standards in Economics (New York: National Council on Economic Education, 1997).

3. Sherri Spay, “Opportunity Costs.” Cowan Elementary School, Cowan Community School Corporation. The lesson is located at the Access Indiana Teaching and Learning Center website:

4. Anita Burt, “Barter,” Shadeland School, Anderson Community Schools, Anderson, Indiana. The lesson is located at the Access Indiana Teaching and Learning Center website:

5. For an example of secondary lessons that incorporate this format, readers may wish to visit the “NetNewsLine” at

Web Resources

Ty Inc.: The Official Home of Beanie Babies®

The Beanie Babies® Collection Birthday Roster

Beanies ‘N More


Someday Isle Stuffed Toys

About the Author
Devon L. Yoho is associate professor of economics and director of Economics America at Ball State University. The author of two economics education courses for the World Wide Web, he serves on the editorial board of EconEdLink, a Web project of the National Council on Economic Education.