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Reading Jim’s Q&A - Distinguish between price and cost reminded me of how I use an ongoing class challenge in order to cement this important distinction in the minds of the students.

I start off by picking a random student and asking them how much their lunch / iPod / whatever cost. When they give me a figure, I tell them that they are wrong and explain that they were referring to the price. The correct answer should have been “I don’t know”. I then go on to say that even if their friends are using cost when they mean price, I hold them to a higher standard and confusing the two is unacceptable and improper use must be punished. I then invite them to try and get their fellow classmates (or me) to fall for the trap by naming the price when the appropriate answer is “I don’t know”. If they are able to do so then the responder must stand up and do the “chicken dance” - I have the audio clip reasonably handy on my laptop (and can be downloaded here)

Not surprisingly, the students see it as a challenge to make me fall for it and have to do the chicken dance in front of them all. The best one was a long conversation I had with a student which was on topic and he seemed genuinely interested in hearing my opinions on a certain facet of theory but in reality was all designed so that at the end he could get me to confuse price and cost (which I did!)

If the students don’t want to do the chicken dance in front of their classmates then I do allow them to bring in a packet of biscuits or a cake to share - I am very nice like that. And, as I was typing this up, my twelve year old son who has been watching asked me “Dad - if they buy a cake from the supermarket, how much would it cost?” I told him it would usually be about $5 and with a big smile on his face he said “Gotcha!”

Doh! Da na na na na na na…....

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