Title: Marginalism and maths teaching in introductory economics

Authors: Martin K. Jones

Addresses: School of Business, University of Dundee, 3, Perth Road Dundee, DD1 4HN, UK

Abstract: Marginalist teaching methods should be abandoned in first-year economics courses, and teaching should be opened up to a wider, more pluralist, mode of teaching. This paper focuses on one aspect of marginalist teaching: the 'iterative' argument by which marginal cost is brought into equilibrium with marginal revenue. It is shown that the argument is difficult to understand, is never used beyond first year teaching, lacks empirical content and misleads as to the content of neoclassical economics. This issue extends beyond this example to other marginalist aspects of typical introductory economics courses. The genesis of these teaching methods is a desire by early marginalists to avoid mathematical notation. However, the growth of mathematical courses within modern economics programs makes this unnecessary. The elimination of these methods opens space in the curriculum for other topics.

Keywords: mathematics teaching in economics; marginalism; introductory economics; maths.

DOI: 10.1504/IJPEE.2020.111290

International Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education, 2020 Vol.11 No.2, pp.189 - 200

Received: 15 Aug 2019
Accepted: 27 Jul 2020

Published online: 17 Nov 2020 *

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