If you want to do well in this course, read this page very carefully and follow the advice given!


This course is designed with two main goals in mind.  The primary purpose of the course is to provide a sufficient understanding of the fundamental principles of economics.  This includes propositions about individual behavior, costs,  output of firms, equilibrium, market structure, and the organization of economic activity.  Given this knowledge, a student should be able to handle further courses in economics or at least understand economic issues found in a newspaper. This first goal is standard for every principles course. 

However, I have a second "higher" goal. I  want to convince you that economics is an interesting field of study, and a systematic way of thinking that is fun and powerful. In short, I don't just want to teach you "about" economics ... I want to convert you into becoming an economist!  By the end of this course, I'd like all of your friends to be saying things like "can't we just watch a movie without  you analyzing it with economic theory!"   I intend to do this by forcing you to use economic ideas to think about a wide variety of "non-economic" applications.  Throughout this course we will constantly apply economics to every aspect of your life: from traffic to pregnancy;  from investments to school shootings.  I hope to surprise you, perhaps offend you*, and ultimately whet your intellectual appetite towards economics. So keep an open mind!!

(* about once a year a student becomes so offended they want to "rip my eyes out". If you do end up feeling this way, please come by my office and let's chat ... that's what a university is for.  The source of this is always the confrontation of the economic "religion" against some other strongly held "religious" view. This cannot be avoided, really, and the appropriate question we should always ask is "which world view is the correct one?" (or better, "which is the false one?"))


The core text is Economic Literacy: A Different Approach to Economic Principles, (2nd Edition:  Pearson Custom Publishing, 2018).  This is now an ONLINE book only. 

You MUST have this edition of the book to complete the assignments for this course.    The book comes with the online resource MYECONLAB (MEL).   MEL contains a summary discussion of the key idea in each chapter, new applications of the ideas, the answers   to all of the odd numbered questions, and extremely detailed answers to the most difficult even numbered questions in the book, videos of me and Professor John Fountain discussing economic topics, and dozens of interactive practice questions of technical material. MEL requires a password that only comes with the purchase of the book.

I've also assigned the short book Candide, by Voltaire. Read it now for fun, and then you can read it again later in the course for the last assignment. This book is also available in the bookstore, but feel free to buy it anywhere, in any edition. It may also be available for free online.


When you purchase your book, you'll get a student code.  You need that to log in.  Also, when logging on you'll be asked for a course ID number.  Use this: allen75445


There will be ONE regular midterm exam initially worth 35% of your final mark. The final is worth 45%. The regular midterm is "forgivable", so if you miss it or do poorly, the weight of that exam will transfer to the final; that is, your final will count for 80%. This is a bit of insurance for you, but remember, the final exam is cumulative and usually more difficult. 


Problem sets are due periodically throughout the term, and count for 10% of your grade. The problems and due dates are listed below, your TAs will  collect the problem sets in tutorial.  To keep your TA happy, hand in neatly written or typed homework.  It also  helps if your graphs are done on graph paper, or with some type of graphing program .

Collusion on the problem sets is strongly recommended (if you do collude, find a  partner(s) from within your tutorial, please hand in only one assignment per group). It is also suggested that you start the problems early in the week.  

I want to encourage you to work together on the problem sets because one of the best ways to learn how to think like an economist is to argue and debate the ideas with others at a similar level of understanding.  The optimal size of the group is 2-4 people. Any larger and all you get is free riding. Still, if you think you can manage one group for the entire tutorial ... go ahead. Groups may change size and composition as often as you want.


1. You will very quickly figure out that the way to minimize the work load of assignments is to have people specialize.  Joe does question 1, Mary does question 2, Deep does question 3, etc. Then you just combine your answers.  What you must understand is that this also minimizes your learning. You'll save time during the week, but  perform poorly on the exams if you take this strategy. The exams count for most of your grade, so keep in mind that you're training to write the exams.  What you want to do is have each member of the group work on all the problems. Then come together, argue your answers, and come up with what you think the best answer is.

2.Please understand that the problem sets represent the MINIMUM number of  practice questions you should do. I expect you to do every single question in the textbook that does not have a dagger or double dagger (ie. the very hardest questions), and to work on them throughout the semester. Many of the problems are designed for discussion. Meet with your study group weekly to go over them.

3. You will quickly notice that the book contains the answers to all of the review questions, and that MEL has the answers to  the odd numbered problems. You will want me to supply the answers to the even numbered questions as well. I WILL NOT DO IT, so don't even ask.  I want you to work them out on your own. You may show your answers to your TA and they can tell you if you got  them right or not.  For each chapter I've taken what I consider to be the hardest unanswered question and provided a detailed answer on MEL. It is very important for you to attempt these questions first before you look at the answer.

A perennial problem with assignments stems from the fact that you hand them in on different days of the week. Those with tutorials on Mondays and Tuesdays feel they miss out on an extra lecture that those with tutorials on Wednesdays and Thursdays get. In the past an attempt was made to hand assignments in during lecture, in TA mailboxes, and to my office. All methods failed, and so we are stuck with the current system. I will instruct my TA's to be aware of the problem and I will monitor the average performance of each TA. For those of you with early tutorials, you can take some comfort in the fact that you get an extra tutorial before a midterm.

Also note that every chapter has a set of review questions with the answers supplied in the book. You should do all of these on your own.  


The final 10% of you grade comes from your participation in tutorials. Your TA will tell you how this grade is determined.


Students always ask: "will the grades be based on a curve?" I suppose they mean, "will there be a fixed number of A's, B's, etc." The answer to this second question is "yes and no." This is a large class. I know from experience that there will be a wide range of marks by the time we reach  the end of the course. Some students, remarkably, will get in the high 90's. Others, just as remarkably, will get below 20. The rest of the class will fall in between, and the mean will be between 58-62% 95% of the time..

Here is how I'm going to assign the grades. The average grade in the class will be between a C- to a C+ depending on the nature of the class.
I expect a first year university class to behave as follows:

1. Show up on time.
2. Be ready to start on time. Pen ready and not talking to your neighbor. When you see me turn the projector on, I expect there to be silence in the room and all eyes on me.
3. Don't fidget until the class is over. If I catch someone watching YouTube or working on Facebook, I will make a scene and l never stop asking that person questions! In fact, I strongly recommend that you NOT bring your laptop to class. If you bring a laptop to class, you'd better be prepared to answer a lot of questions throughout the lecture.
4. Pay attention until I say the class is over. Don't start closing books and putting a jacket on at 15 minutes past the hour.
5. Generally be attentive during lectures. I love it when students ask questions, so please feel free to do so.

If, this class behaves along these lines, then I'll make the mean a C+ (This has only happened 2-3 times in recent memory). If I have to ask you to be quiet, etc. on more than a couple of occasions, then the average grade will be  a C. If, however, you constantly talk, want to leave early, show up late, and generally act like Middle Schoolers, then the average will be a C- (this has only ever happened once, in 2006).  

Next, I determine which marks get an `A' grade. I then take the average A grade (suppose it is 80%), and divide by 2. This is where the F's start. So if you're going to pass this course, you need to understand at least half as much as the A students. (This is the Peter Kennedy Rule). Then I   just fill in the rest based on the Economics department grading guidelines.  If this is what you mean by "curving the grades" then the grades are curved. Clearly, your performance relative to others in the class matters, but there is an absolute standard as well.

For the high achievers in the class, you might want to know about The Fellowship of the Rooster and The Order of  Wizards.


You are welcome to come by my office during office hours, but often students find sending emails better. This is fine with me.  You may find that I send out blanket responses to the class, however, if I think the question might be valuable to everyone. I will also send emails out to the class announcing various things during the semester. So ... you should check your sfu email account regularly. When you email me, please use your sfu account, otherwise my filter might not let it through.


I'm an easy going guy, but if you cheat in my class ... I will hunt you down and not rest until you are expelled or punished appropriately. 

It always amazes me that a first year student thinks they can cheat in my class and get away with it. You are, most likely, an amateur cheater. After years of experience, I am a professional at catching cheaters. I have several tricks I use to catch people cheating, and after three decades of teaching, I think I've seen every trick in the book.

Still, I know that every semester 5-10 people will ignore my warning. When I do catch you though, don't say I didn't warn you.


1. Do the homework ... plus.  Your book is full of questions. Do them all. Check your answers. Talk to your study partners. Practice, practice, practice. And start in the first week, don't wait until exam time.

2. Take smart notes. The lecture outlines are on the web. Print those off and bring them to the lecture to follow. I challenge you to bring just a single sheet of additional paper to class. With this, just take the bare minimum of notes. No color pens! At the end of class, your sheet should be just chicken scratch. Just get the critical points. THEN, THAT DAY, write out a nice set of notes from the class, using your memory, outline, and small notes. Elaborate, explain, and use more than one color on the graphs. By the end of the semester you'll have wonderful notes that will help in future classes. You'll also have no need to study for the exam. It takes a little bit of work each day, but in the end the payoffs are enormous. The way most students take notes is a waste of time.  I have found that students who use laptops in class have the worst notes. This course is very graph intensive, and you simply cannot graph fast enough with a computer. Please leave your laptop at home.

3. Understand ... don't memorize.  Most of you are just out of high school. You've done a lot of coloring and memorizing. Now it's time to start understanding. Understanding means you have to think about a concept. It is a skill that takes practice. You'll know you understand an idea when you can apply it to a context that is different from the one used to learn it. In class I'll tell a lot of stories and use examples from popular culture and the media. If, after you've heard a story you just think "that was interesting, I wonder why he told it." then you are not catching on!  Ponder the story and try to figure out why I said it, and how it relates to the lecture material.

4. Come to class.  The ideas in 103 are sequential. If you miss lecture 4, you'll have a hard time understanding the rest of the course. The course follows the book, but the lecture is full of material not in the book  (and vise versa). 

5. Read the book ahead of time.  You'll want me to do the work for you, but if you read the relevant chapter before the lecture, and then read it again after, you'll learn a lot more in this course.

I won't lie to you. Economics 103 and 105 are probably the hardest 100 level courses on campus. They take ideas from mathematics, history, and other social sciences, and mix them all up in a model you've never seen before. They're rigorous in that they require you to think INSIDE a box. Over the past several  years, SFU has lowered its entrance requirements considerably. We now allow students from high school and college who would never have had a chance at getting in before. However, the standards of excellence in Economics have not changed. The result has been an explosion in the number of students who fail both 103 and 105. In some semesters, the fail rate has been as high as 40%!  Many of us who teach these courses are convinced that the major problem is work ethic. If you were a B- student in high school, you must realize that a significant increase in effort is required for you to pass.  The good news is you can do it! Also, Economics 103 and 105 are the two most rewarding 100 level courses on campus. I hope this is a great course for you. Good luck in the course!


Week                                        Topic                                                         Readings                                  Problems Sets Due

1                                      Intro and Maximization                                    Chaps. 1 & 2
2                                      Substitution.                                                     Chaps. 3 
3                                      Demand & Elasticity                                       Chaps. 4                       PS #1 Chap 2:  6, 8, 12, 14 .

4                                      Exchange                                                         Chap. 5                        PS #2   Chap 3: 2, 6, 10, 12     Chap. 4: 14, 18,  28, 30.                          
5                                     Cost and DMPs                                                 Chap. 6                       PS #3  Chap 4: 32, 34, 38, 40.   Chap. 5:   10, 14, 20
6                                      Supply                                                               Chap. 7                      PS #4   Chap 6:  2, 6, 8,  20.

7                                     Price Taking                                                      Chap. 8& 9                 PS#5  Chap. 7:  6,  16,  22 ,  36,  40.

8                                     Applications                                                     Chap. 10                                                                                     

9                                                                                                                        PS#6:  Chap. 8:     14,  16, 18   Chap 9:   14, 18, 20.


10                                  Interest Rates                                                Chaps.   11               PS #7:  Chap. 10:    4,  28,  28, 32, 34.

11                                       Interest Rates                                        Chaps. 11
12                                   Price Searching Markets                            Chap. 13/14                       PS #9     8   Chap 11:   26, 32, 38, 42, 50, 58

13                                   Candide                                                         Candide                            PS   #10      Chap  13:   4, 34,  42, 46
                                                                                                                                                      1. Find five applications of any ideas in the book Candide.

                                                                                                                                                      2. Are economists, who believe in the first principle, Panglossian?                                  

                                              MIDTERM EXAM  Tuesday March 12