In this 36 week course, students will develop a predictive mathematical model of the global economy, using historical data available online and various regression models and economic relationships. They will program an app in the Python programming language in order to run this model for future users. They will publish their findings in a (mostly) bi-weekly blog to “test drive” their ideas through public comment. Through this, they will learn mathematical modeling, computer programming, data-based decision making, and technical communications and design.
“And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly, for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light…He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust true riches to you?” — Luke 16:8, 10-11
Where Did the Idea Come From?
If I gave you $50 and a copy of next week’s Wall Street Journal, how much money could you make?
What if I continued to give you the following week’s edition of the paper every day for the next year? Could you make a million dollars?
This course started with a German stoplight, a joke, a book title, and a science fiction robot. Yes, I realize that this requires a little explanation.
There is an old joke about two men in the woods who encounter a bear. As one man bends down to put on running shoes, his companion points out that a man cannot outrun a bear, no matter the choice of footwear. The other man replies: “I don’t have to outrun the bear; I just have to outrun you!” This is how many economics decisions actually play out. If you are ahead of the crowd, you win!
As I was walking to work in Germany, a stoplight would direct pedestrian traffic across the street.
Over time, I learned the traffic light patterns, so I was able to actually start walking before the pedestrian light allowed it, much to the surprise and dismay of the Germans.
I realized that if this were us buying stocks, I would be rich because I had “outrun” them.
Robert Heinlein, in his book Friday, tells of an android whose job it is to find correlations between all of the events in the world in order to determine causation (and thus, prediction.)
This got me thinking about whether or not it was possible that seemingly unrelated events had a causative “butterfly effect.”
Another book that I read, If It’s Raining In Brazil, Buy Starbucks, moved my speculations out of the realm of science fiction. I realized that the ability to use unlikely indicators, combined with sound analysis and careful modesty, could actually help “outrun” all of the so-called experts who were trying to “outrun the bear.”
Thus was born Econopolicy.
What Adult Accomplishments Does This Course Coach?
- Predictive mathematical model of the global economy
- Bi-weekly blog proposing and defending the things that you are learning about the economy
- App/user interface to make the predictions accessible to others than just the modelers
- Scholarly economic article submitted to a journal for publication
What Transferable Skills Does This Course Train?
- Ability to predict the global economy to a calculated level of uncertainty
- Ability to mathematically model various problems in life so as to find rational solutions
- Working knowledge of the scholarly publication process
- Ability to design a user interface/app to “translate” technical knowledge to an end user
- Ability to communicate technical information in writing to a broader adult audience
What Careers Does This Course Give Me a Leg Up On?
- Broker – Average Salary: $67,310 (https://www.careeronestop.org)
- Hedge Fund Manager – Average Salary: $100,866 (www.payscale.com)
- Investment Banker – Average Salary: $139,451 (https://www.glassdoor.com)
- Personal Financial Planner – Average Salary: $90,530 (https://www.careeronestop.org)
- App Developer – Average Salary: $85,773 (https://www.indeed.com)
- Economics Professor – Average Salary: $95,770 (https://www.careeronestop.org)
- Retired and Living on Your Investment Income – Average Salary: “Sky’s the Limit!”
Why “0 Minutes”?
In talking with a number of homeschool families (and remembering my own childhood), I realized something important: families are busy! If I schedule a course to meet on Tuesdays at 9:30, then any family that has something else at that time cannot take part, and I didn’t want that. On the flip side, we have all done various self-paced, self-improvement hobbies that did not end up doing any good because there was no accountability (New Years’ Resolutions, anyone?) I decided to get the best of both worlds: Weekly accountability with daily flexibility.
The students will have assignments that they must accomplish each week. They will also interact with me and with their classmates in chat type interactions. This keeps them on schedule to actually complete the amazing accomplishments that this course coaches them through. But they have the freedom, within the week, to choose when they are going to work on the assignments. I have tried to provide enough instruction to enable the students to do the tasks that they have been assigned, but I also understand that sometimes, there needs to be some more direct instruction to clear up misunderstandings.
To accommodate this need, it will be possible to schedule “office hours” on an “as needed” basis where I would have a live conversation with one or more students. There will be some expectations of the student when they are asking for “office hours.” I will give them questions to answer in order to make sure that I understand what their question is and can best prepare to make that time as efficient and effective as possible. Office hours will be scheduled based on mutual scheduling needs and availability, and if there seems to be a topic that everyone is having problems with, I will either schedule a class session to clear it up, or I will provide additional instructional materials.
I am committed to your student’s success. But rather than limit your family’s ability to take part in the course, I prefer to give your family the flexibility to have your child work on their schedule, as long as they are getting their work done by the Friday deadline each week.
How Would I Write This Course Up On a High School Transcript?
- As an Economics credit, given the breadth of coverage of the prediction model that the students are developing and the interrelationships that they have explored in the creation of their model, as well as the scholarly writing that they will submit as their article to a scholarly journal
- As an Applied Mathematics credit, given the extensive use of regression modeling and conditional probability that is built into the modeling process for calculating the predictions and the level of uncertainty associated with those predictions.
- As a Computer credit, given the different applications that the students will be both using and developing in order to create a user interface that is accessible and useful.
- As a Technical Writing credit, given the scholarly article that the students are submitting for professional publication, as well as their regular explanations of the different iterations of their mathematical model.