Teaching economics with Squid Game, a guide

Squid Game
Squid Game is equipping educators and students with a fresh approach to teaching and learning one of the most demanding topics at introductory economics level. Image: Shutterstock

First year business and economics students all over the world may soon be using Netflix’s global smash hit series Squid Game to learn complex economic theories

We’ve always used the STEM + X formula to promote science, technology, engineering and maths subjects as being compatible with any random passion you may have. And the latest unlikely pairing? Economics + Squid Game! 

Research out of Monash Business School suggests that integrating some of the strategies used in the smash-hit Netflix series, is an effective way to teach one of the most challenging concepts of introductory economics – Game Theory. 

From semester one students studying first year microeconomics will have some pretty epic homework. The school has developed a range of innovative and interactive teaching tools to provide educators with a fresh approach to teaching one of the most demanding topics at introductory economics level.

“Game theory is important because it helps us understand decision making in strategic situations,” says Associate Professor Wayne Geerling from the Monash Business School and co-author of the paper Using Squid Game to Teach Game Theory.

“The players in Squid Game are a metaphor for companies, and we have examined the strategic interactions of Squid Game in comparison to real life business. How do players, ie companies, interact. Game theory has a lot of real-world applications, analysing how actions influence others and the strategic implications of such.”

Not such a snoozy subject

Associate Professor Geerling has developed a series of innovative teaching guides that can be adapted by economics instructors anywhere – a welcome change to the chalk and talk approach usually associated with the subject.  

“Many students struggle to think in a strategic manner when material is taught through traditional methods alone. Pop culture, such as Squid Game, can be used as an effective medium to break down barriers to learning because it taps into everyday life and allows students to see connections between abstract theory and real world applications,” he says.

Squid Game revolves around 456 players, all of whom are heavily indebted, risking their lives to play a series of six children’s games – with a deadly twist – against each other. The reward for the winner is a sizeable bounty. For everyone else, the consolation prize is death.

In Squid Game the players are making decisions in real time without full information and to survive they must work out their optimal strategies to maximise their chances of winning.

Just like the cut-throat real world of business.

“The Netflix series focuses on six games, we’ve chosen three of those to represent the best practical applications of game theory for students,” says Associate Professor Wayne Geerling.

Using Squid Game to teach game theory reflects Associate Professor Geerling’s passion for revolutionising how we teach economics and promote active learning techniques in class using pop culture.

“Despite the growth in teaching resources and the ability for educators to integrate innovative teaching practices into their curriculum more easily, the vast majority of educators continue to teach using a traditional lecture.”

Coolest homework ever, right? Top of the class, here we come. 

Interested in economics? Read our 2021 Careers with STEM: Economics issue here.


Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

As Refraction’s digital editor, Cassie Steel spends her days researching robots and stalking famous scientists on Twitter.


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