Pedagogy in Action > Library > Teaching with Simulations > Economics Examples > Population Simulator

Population Simulator

This page authored by Katherine R. Rowell, Sinclair Community College.
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This material was originally created for Starting Point: Teaching Economics
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Summary

This simulation uses United Nations world population projections to simulate future population trends for the whole world or of individual countries. Students can make their own simulations by adjusting fertility, life expectancy,and the sex ratio at birth. There are numerous activities and questions that could be explored using this simulator.

Learning Goals

This is a simulation tool for explaining numerous demographic terms including mortality rate,life expectancy, fertility rate, infant mortality, and the sex ratio. The simulator could also be used to examine the process of demographic transition. There are numerous learning goals that could be developed by using this simulator. This simulator could be used for basic understanding of demographic terms as well as more complex comparisons analyzing impacts of various population variables.

Context for Use

This simulation could be used a various levels depending on the questions asked in an activity. At the introductory level, it would work to explain basic demographic terms and helping students understand at a basic level demographic transition theory. At an advanced level it could be used to do some predictive modeling. Students could use the simulator to test the impacts of death rate and birth rate on a population. This activity could be adjusted to various lengths including a basic look at birth rate and death rate activity to a much longer project examining population trends. This is an easily adapted activity that could be used by a faculty member in a lecture to demonstrate various demographic terms, developed into an individual or partner project in a lab setting with computers and internet connections,and/or a longer assignment that a student could complete outside of class. The only issue with using this simulator is the fact that the demographic variables of immigration and emmigration are not part of the simulation. However, this could allow for a deep learning activity where students research and predict the effects of immigration and migration on a population. Given that this simulation can be adapted in various ways, there are numerous possiblity for time limits.

Description and Teaching Materials

Link to the simulator:
Population Simulator

Please note that this organization has several other simulators and games that demonstrate various demographic terms. Most of which would be useful in an introductory course.

There are numerous activities and questions that could be developed for this simulation:

Students could compare and contrast the fertility and mortality rates within various countries and across the world.
Students could look at life expectancy and the impact that it has on population growth.

Students could be assigned the task of predicting a population based on various assigned rates.

Each student could be assigned the task of creating population predictions for a particular country and sharing in class.

There are numerous ways this simulator could be used to help students learn more about demography.




Teaching Notes and Tips

The organization that developed this simulator and sponsors this source is a French organization. Although most of the material is in English, there are parts that are in French. This should not impact the use of the simulation. Despite the possibilities of doing some predictive activities with this simulator, it is relatively easy to use and students enjoy using it. The key to use this simulator well is developing good questions and activities that enable students to critically use the simulator.

Assessment

There are numerous types of assessment including a pre and post assessment of demographic terminology to understand increases in student learning. Including questions on an exam after the completion of the activity is also a beneficial way to measure student learning.

References and Resources

Link to the simulator:
Everything about Population

There are various websites with activities on Population Pyramids that could be adapted for use with this population simulation:
Lesson Plans for Pyramid Building
Census Information
Population Pyramids
Lesson Plans for Teaching Population Dynamics

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