Website review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2021

Econ Lowdown

Economics resources cover fertile but uneven ground

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Grades
K–12
Subjects & Skills
English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies

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Pros: A broad range of content spanning K–12 and beyond, covering just about every corner of economics with an easy-to-use syllabus maker.

Cons: Many of the built-in assessments are short multiple-choice quizzes; lessons can sometimes present one point of view.

Bottom Line: It's a bit uneven and lacking deep assessments, but teachers can find free resources for kicking off valuable lessons on finance and economics.

Econ Lowdown's lessons and resources can be used in any economics, math, history, or government class, with content used piecemeal or as a whole curriculum. Students will get the most out of the experience if you can provide additional ways to synthesize the material above and beyond what's offered on the site.

K–12, post-secondary, and homeschool teachers can register for a free account and set up classes and student accounts on the teacher dashboard right away. There, you can create a syllabus for each class by browsing and choosing material to include, as well as adding your own custom writing assignments. There are some premade syllabi to get you started. Lessons can be ordered and given particular due dates, and custom introductory text can be included in each syllabus. Once a syllabus is published, students can access the material and you can start monitoring their progress on the teacher dashboard. Students can log on with a username and password, with system-generated login credentials, or through their Google account. Teachers can also use Econ Lowdown with Canvas, but unfortunately there's no Google Classroom integration. Lessons have been converted into Google Docs and Slides, however.

If you have trouble getting started, there are a few tutorial videos and some virtual events to teach you how to implement the materials on the site. There are also professional development classes and continuing education credits.

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Econ Lowdown is a financial literacy website and online classroom platform providing free lessons and activities for K–12 and college. It's backed by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (with additional resources from other sources, such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta).

The site's resource gallery hosts over 400 resources (including a couple dozen in Spanish). Resources come in a vast range of types: lectures, interviews, animated explanatory videos, informational text, audio clips, online activities, games, interactives, and more. They're easy to use individually or to combine for complete, customized lessons using the site's built-in syllabi tool. It's easy to browse by resource type, school subject, content topic, grade, language, duration, and more, or you can search by keyword to find what you need. Some content is specifically targeted for earlier grades, to make learning about the economy available to all ages. All of the content relates to the economy, covering broad topics such as Buying Goods and Services, Credit, Economic Growth, Federal Reserve System, Interest Rates, Paying for College, Planning and Money Management, and Taxes. Teachers can also browse resources by "group." These are collections, generally thematic, that are tied to specific brands or tools. For instance, there's a group for NPR's Planet Money show, and FREDcast, a data analysis tool and game tied to key economic statistics. 

Econ Lowdown includes quality materials from across the economics spectrum, from learning about how credit works to employment to banking to investing to interest rates. It covers both personal finance and the national and global economy. If students dig into this range of materials, they'll gain a valuable perspective that ties their own personal experiences to the broader financial and economic context. Along the way, they can learn to better balance their own monthly budget or to plan for their future. They'll also better understand the government's role in the direction of the economy and how markets influence it all.

It can be challenging, however, to sort through everything on offer, and the site could feature better suggested pathways and syllabi. Teachers will want to investigate each resource. Some are far better than others, and there's a general inconsistency in delivery and quality, including pedagogical approach. For instance, during a lesson focused on minimum wage increases and combating poverty, students consider only one political viewpoint. While this side of the debate is handled well, it is poor pedagogical practice to not have students investigate the other position just as thoroughly.

Similarly, there are a variety of ways for students to learn and demonstrate learning on the site, but many of the assessments are fairly passive and focus on comprehension. However, about a dozen interactive activities offer some increased engagement and variety, and any of the content can be paired with outside assignments that require students to synthesize and apply what they've learned here. Teachers can also augment the material by adding writing assessments to each syllabus, but students will get the most out of this site if teachers integrate the material into larger lessons or units.

Overall Rating

Engagement

Much of the learning can be dry, but the site covers enough topics relevant to students' lives to generate interest. Student engagement will also depend on the teacher's choices and in-class integrations.

Pedagogy

There are multiple ways to take in info but only limited and simplistic assessment options. Some lessons feature a singular perspective on debatable policy issues.

Support

It's quite easy to set up syllabi for classes, and there are plenty of tutorials to get up to speed. The teacher dashboard gives sufficient if not extensive oversight of student progress. Videos have closed captions.


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