People's Pie

Federal budget game's challenge delivers powerful message

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Expert evaluation by Common Sense



Subjects & Skills

Critical Thinking, Math, Social Studies

Price: Free
Platforms: Web, Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac

Pros: Intriguing balancing-act gameplay will bring students back for more.

Cons: It's tough without adjustable difficulty, so some students might not make the cut.

Bottom Line: Federal budgeting -- and its unique ethical and mathematical balancing act -- fits game-based fiddling and strategizing well, but expect a challenge.

Teachers can use The People's Pie to give students an appreciation and understanding of federal budgeting. To extend learning, have students research how the budget is currently allocated, and any recently passed or proposed spending bills. With this information, they can write position papers on how the budget is divided or allocated, or they can even try to politically involved and write their congresspeople or the President. Get students to play the role of the government, creating their political platform, planning out their own federal budgets, and drafting bills. Students could also engage in light live action role-playing, assuming different roles as they try to plan and pass the budget and bills. For teachers interested in broader civics learning, dive into the rest of the iCivics curriculum and games to situate People's Pie in a larger unit that shows, for instance, the other responsibilities of the President or the branches of government.

Editor's Note: This review addresses a different, older version of People's Pie.

The People's Pie is an educational game in the iCiviiCivicscs series designed to teach students how the federal budget works. Students get to plan out the budget and choose bills that decide how the budget is allocated. By doing this, players learn that a successful federal budget requires balancing of social interests, political interests, and the well-being of the citizenry. Beware! Some bills are frivolous, and others are critical to the population. To stay out of trouble, students must think critically about how to spend reserves and levy taxes, or they risk going into debt, getting kicked out of office, or both.

Full Disclosure: iCivics and Common Sense Education share a funder; however, that relationship does not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.

It drives home an important lesson: balancing the federal budget is a daunting, nearly impossible task that's the responsibility of different stakeholders in the government. Along with that overarching lesson, students get to see how bills spend federal budgetary resources, how some parts of bills are approved or denied, and how those choices affect the overall budget and a President's approval ratings. There's also general financial management takeaways; by exploring how the U.S. must manage debt or risk not being able to afford bills, students can learn a little bit about how to deal with their own finances responsibly.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

The difficult but interesting challenge of budget balancing mixed with great visual flair will likely have kids gobbling their pieces of "pie" and wanting to play again.


Taking the reins of the federal budget forces kids to think critically about priorities, and how choices affect the satisfaction of the people. Every turn offers long-term lessons.


Kids start with a thorough tutorial, but then are left on their own, so some may get lost. Scores are kept, but there is no explanation or analysis of the results. Lesson plans on the site are helpful if kids have an adult guide.

Community Rating

Great Game to Intro Federal Budget

I really like this game. Many times, I have found the Icivics games to teach important concepts, but they were a little to easy and a little to repetitive. This game does a good job of building several facets into the game that make every decision really count. I think this gae does a great job of introducing the federal budget, and I would use this in my class with that topic every time.

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