Common Sense Economics for Life

This is the essential course for individuals who may only take one economics and personal finance course in their life. It prepares individuals to be strategic consumers, wise savers, diversified investors, and responsible citizens. The course includes 17 modules, paced at roughly one week per module. Students begin with a basic introduction to 12 Key Elements of Economics, followed by modules on the Sources of Economic Progress, the Role of Government, and Practical Personal Finance. Each module includes readings, fun and engaging popular media video clips, audios, discussion questions, homework assignments, quizzes, and exams.

No prior knowledge is required. The course is not math-heavy. Instead, students are encouraged to develop their economic reasoning skills and apply them to the development of a more fulfilling life!

  • Designed for students who may only take one economics and personal finance course in their life
  • A semester long introduction into economics applying economic reasoning
    • 17 modules = 13 Core Economics Modules + 4 Personal Finance Modules
  • Covers 59 Key Economic Concepts aligned with National Standards

This is the essential course for individuals who may only take one economics and personal finance course in their life. It prepares individuals to be strategic consumers, wise savers, diversified investors, and responsible citizens. The course includes 17 modules, paced at roughly one week per module. Students begin with a basic introduction to 12 Key Elements of Economics, followed by modules on the Sources of Economic Progress, the Role of Government, and Practical Personal Finance. Each module includes readings, fun and engaging popular media video clips, audios, discussion questions, homework assignments, quizzes, and exams.

No prior knowledge is required. The course is not math-heavy. Instead, students are encouraged to develop their economic reasoning skills and apply them to the development of a more fulfilling life!

  • Designed for students who may only take one economics and personal finance course in their life
  • A semester long introduction into economics applying economic reasoning
    • 17 modules = 13 Core Economics Modules + 4 Personal Finance Modules
  • Covers 59 Key Economic Concepts aligned with National Standards
Recommended by 93.1% of your Colleagues
The downloadable course packages contains all of the following resources:
  • Common Cartridge
    • Imports into most Learning Management Systems (LMS’s); Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, Schoology, and many more
    • Contains a full semester’s worth of assessment materials broken down by module
  • Teacher Files
    • Contains electronic course files (.docx) for easy incorporation into your lesson plans
    • Includes additional lesson activities
  • eTextbook
    • is built in a rich text format incorporating text and video and audio clips into a multimedia experience that engages students and enhances their learning experience
    • is free and simple. Teachers simply register on our website and receive a code to share with their students.


  • By signing up for our Mailing List you will receive
    • New free resources such as study break articles, mini-lessons, and bell ringers
    • Updates about Certell
    • Summer Job Opportunities for Teachers and much more!


This course uses the Read, Watch, Listen, and Do approach to learning. The course is divided into four major parts:

  • Part 1: Focuses on the basic concepts of economics, including incentives, scarcity, opportunity cost, marginalism, gains from trade, demand, supply, the price mechanism, and secondary effects.
  • Part 2: Focuses on the key element of an environment for growth and prosperity. The importance of property rights, the competitive process, allocation of capital, monetary stability, low taxes, and international trade are analyzed.
  • Part 3: Focuses on the role of government and the operation of the political process. Both market failure and government failure are explained. As in the case of markets, the tools of economics are used to address how the political process works, why it sometimes works poorly, and what might be done to improve the process.
  • Part 4: Applies the tools of economics to personal finance. Choosing a career, entrepreneurship, budgeting, saving, investing, credit, and taxes are considered in this section.

During the past decade, the Stavros Center for Economic Education of Florida State University has worked with a team of master economic educators to develop the Common Sense Economics for Life courses. The primary contributors to this project include James Gwartney and Joe Calhoun (Florida State University), Tawni Ferrarini (Northern Michigan University), Mark Schug (University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee), John Morton (Arizona Council for Economic Education), John Kessler (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne), and Certell, Inc. The developers have all spent their careers in education and most currently direct Centers of Economic Education. They have combined their expertise to achieve a single objective: the development and implementation of an exciting and understandable set of materials that focuses on what students really need to know about economics and personal finance. Certell, an educational non-profit, is partnered with the primary contributors to fund development and distribution of Common Sense curricula in Economics as well as other subjects.

The Common Sense Economics for Life course pairs the textbook primer Common Sense Economics: What Everyone Should Know about Wealth and Prosperity (St. Martin’s Press) by Gwartney, Stroup, Lee, Ferrarini, and Calhoun with short video clips, classic readings, interesting podcasts, and practical assignments. The “read, watch, listen, and do” approach is used to make learning both easy and fun. The Stavros Center now offers this multimedia course regularly online and shares the materials with individuals throughout the U.S. and now around the globe.

59 Key Economic Concepts Covered

Part 1

  • Incentives
  • Scarcity
  • Opportunity Costs
  • Marginalism
  • Gains from trade
  • Transaction costs
  • Demand and supply
  • Market equilibrium
  • Demand and supply (more)
  • Changes in demand vs. changes in quantity demanded
  • Changes in supply vs. changes in quantity supplied
  • Price controls
  • Profit and loss
  • Helping others and receipt of income
  • Jobs versus the creation of wealth
  • Source of economic progress
  • Market prices and the invisible hand
  • Secondary effects and unintended consequences

Part 2

  • Legal system and private ownership
  • Private property and incentives
  • Competitive process
  • Regulation and gains from trade
  • Capital markets: wealth-creating versus inefficient projects
  • Monetary policy and inflation
  • Taxes, incentives, and productive activity
  • Gains from international trade
  • Economics, politics, and trade restrictions
  • Economic freedom, growth, and income
  • Recession and depression
  • Economic instability
  • Monetary policy and Great Depression
  • Tariffs and trade restrictions
  • Taxes, subsidies, and instability

Part 3

  • Protective and productive roles of government
  • Market failure
  • Government failure
  • Opportunity cost of government
  • Political versus the market process
  • Special interest and political allocation
  • Political incentives and shortsightedness
  • Transfers, incentives, and the “welfare” of recipients
  • The unintended consequences of transfers and subsidies
  • Central planning, politics, and resource allocation
  • Competition among governments, incentives, and resource allocation
  • Constitutional rules and sound economics

Part 4

  • Comparative advantage and discovery of career opportunities
  • Entrepreneurship and personal success
  • Budgeting and getting more out of your income
  • Strategic spending: used versus new
  • Dangers of debt and credit card use
  • Prudent saving: planning for a “rainy day”
  • Power of compound interest
  • Diversification and reducing investment risk
  • Risk and return: stocks versus bonds
  • Random walk theory and stock prices
  • Indexed versus managed equity funds
  • Portfolio adjustments and phases of life
  • Beware of investment schemes
  • Teach others sound financial principles


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