ECON 1201 Principles of Microeconomics (DRAFT #3)

InstructorRob Szarka
OfficeMontieth 328
HoursMon. 10:00-11:00 am or by appointment
Emailrobert.szarka "at"

Course Description

From the course catalog:

How the invisible hand of the market functions through the economic decisions of firms and individuals. How prices, wages and profits are determined, resources are allocated and income is distributed. Topical subjects (e.g., energy policy and health care). May be taken before or after ECON 1202. Not open for credit to students who have passed ECON 1200 or ECON 113. May not be taken concurrently with ECON 1200.

Students enrolled in section 002 of this class receive honors credit. You must be enrolled in the Honors Program to take advantage of this option. See for more information.

As an honors course, this class has been specifically designed to "offer greater intellectual rigor, more opportunities for active and participatory learning, and the chance to study with other highly-motivated and intellectually-engaged students". All class members (not just honors students) will be expected to attend class, present material to the class, participate actively in class discussion, and pursue topics that interest them beyond the required reading. In short, if you expect to just "get by", this is not the right section of ECON 1201 for you! On the other hand, I expect that every conscientious student will not only earn a good grade, but enjoy the class more than a large lecture section.

Our approach to learning economics this semester will be different than that of most economics classes. The most obvious difference is that we will devote about one quarter of a our class time to games and simulations intended to illustrate the principles we study. Perhaps less obvious from the schedule of topics is that I expect to spend less time "lecturing" the class than is traditional; instead, I will expect you to take equal responsibility for your own learning (individually and as a class). Finally, the weight given to various topics and the order in which we will cover them is also to some degree non-traditional.

Course Goals

At the end of this course, you should...

You may also improve your ability to...

Less tangible, but equally important: you should have fun! Likewise, this class will be less than a complete success if I don't also learn and have fun!

Course Texts

The only required text you'll need to buy is Experiments with Economic Principles: Microeconomics (2nd edition) by Theodore Bergstrom and John Miller (ISBN 007229518X). This book is available at the campus bookstore. Amazon also appears to have many used copies available at a significantly lower price:

In addition, we will read all of Stand-Up Economics: The Micro Textbook (formerly Quantum Microeconomics) by Yoram Bauman and selections from Introduction to Economic Analysis by R. Preston McAfee. Both of these texts are available for free online.

I have also prepared a list of optional books that may interest you. Two of them are available at the bookstore: Thomas Schelling's Micromotives and Macrobehavior and Robert Frank's The Economic Naturalist. Schelling's book is also on reserve at the library, as is David Friedman's Hidden Order. I may present material from these books in class, but you won't be responsible for having read any specific book. Instead, you should consider reading one of them to help you contribute to class discussion and possibly frame a topic for a research project.

Other required or optional readings will be assigned or suggested over the course of the semester. All of these will be available online, either on the class web site, via the UCONN library's site, or on the web at large.


I will grade you under Plan A unless you choose Plan B (by emailing me a project proposal before November 3).

Plan A: 25% Class Participation, 30% Lab Reports, 10% Quizzes, 35% Final Exam

Plan B: 10% Research Project, 25% Class Participation, 30% Lab Reports, 10% Quizzes, 25% Final Exam

Research Project

If you choose to complete a research project, it's up to you to decide what to research and how to present your results. You may work alone or in a group. The final deliverable for your project may be a paper, a video, a web site, software, a business plan, or anything else that demonstrates your engagement with microeconomics. We will discuss possible projects and your progress toward defining a topic and completing your research periodically in class.

Completing your project early and presenting it on the class web site will count in your favor. However, all projects are due by December 11 at noon.

Lab Reports

The lab portion of your grade will be computed as the average of your four best lab reports. If you miss class the day of a lab, you will receive a zero for that lab; but there will be at least six labs, so you'll have ample opportunity to meet the requirement. Of course, if you have an illness that results in a lengthy absence, we will make other arrangements.

I will choose a student in advance to lead each lab, though I will be available to assist with chores such as distributing materials. (These handouts from an earlier edition of the text may be useful.) For labs where a "winner" can be determined, the student with the highest score who hasn't yet led a lab will have right of first refusal on leading the next lab.

Participants are responsible for reading the assigned chapters from Bergstrom and Miller before each lab. If you are chosen to lead the lab, you will also need to prepare materials for the lab in advance.

After each lab, the leader is responsible for posting results to the class web site promptly, along with a paragraph or two reflecting on the lab procedure. At this point, the leader gets credit for one lab report (with a generous grade if all has gone well). Participants are then responsible for submitting their lab reports by the start of the next Tuesday class. For games and simulations with more than one role (e.g. "buyer" and "seller"), two participants with opposite roles may choose to write their lab report jointly.

Quizzes & Final Exam

The quizzes will be short, in-class, and primarily multiple-choice. They are intended to give you objective feedback about your progress in understanding the material, as well as practice for the final exam.

A culmulative final exam will be held at the time and place outlined on the university final exam schedule. Make-up exams will only be given with written permission from the Dean of Students.

Class Participation

I will expect you to show up to class regularly (though life does occasionally make this a challenge—don't come to class if you have swine flu!), having completed the assigned reading and worked through any associated end-of-chapter problems. I won't collect written homework, but you should be ready to present your answers at the whiteboard. I will also pose short questions to the class or to specific students for follow-up in subsequent classes or on the class web site.

Watch for relevant news stories (Marketplace and Planet Money are good sources that are available as podcasts) and share them in class when appropriate. Once you've mastered the material in this course, you should find relevant examples of economic behavior every time you venture outside your dorm room!

Class time is a scarce resource, and not everyone is equally comfortable speaking in front of a class. You should also feel free to share relevant information via the class web site. An easy way to make a contribution via the web site would be to post your notes after class, or collaborate on editing notes posted by other students. The web site tracks the edits made to various documents, but I may also ask the class for feedback about who has made the most useful contributions.

Learning Disabilities

If you have a diagnosed learning disability and will need special arrangements for classes or exams, please bring me a letter from the Center for Students with Disabilities as soon as possible. No special consideration can be given without documentation.

Class Decorum

You're all adults and I'm confident you'll show me and one another respect by turning off your cell phone, setting your IM status to Away, keeping side conversations to a minimum, and disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Let me address one tricky issue, however. If you wish to record any of our classes, please obtain permission from me and your fellow classmates at the beginning of class. Recording can be a valuable study tool, but they might be counterproductive if it keeps some students from participating.

I would like to record some or all of our labs, which I expect to be fun and freewheeling. If this is acceptable to all of you, I will post the raw video to our private class web site for your use in lab reports or other class projects. I would also like your permission to use these videos in presentations about the use of games and simulations in class. Please let me know if you have concerns or objections.

Academic Integrity

From UCONN's Student Code:

A fundamental tenet of all educational institutions is academic honesty; academic work depends upon respect for and acknowledgement of the research and ideas of others. Misrepresenting someone else's work as one's own is a serious offense in any academic setting and it will not be condoned. Misconduct includes, but is not limited to, providing or receiving assistance in a manner not authorized by the instructor in the creation of work to be submitted for academic evaluation (e.g. papers, projects, and examinations); any attempt to influence improperly (e.g. bribery, threats) any member of the faculty, staff, or administration of the University in any matter pertaining to academics or research; presenting, as one's own, the ideas or words of another for academic evaluation; doing unauthorized academic work for which another person will receive credit or be evaluated; and presenting the same or substantially the same papers or projects in two or more courses without the explicit permission of the instructors involved. A student who knowingly assists another student in committing an act of academic misconduct shall be equally accountable for the violation, and shall be subject to the sanctions and other remedies described in The Student Code.
Enough said.


See the Tentative Schedule for assignment dates and links to readings.

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