Grade 6-8, 9-12

I Don’t Want Much, I Just Want More: Allocation and Decision-Making

Time: 60 mins,
Updated: September 1 2023,


Students will be able to:

  • Explain different methods of allocating resources, goods and services.
  • Compare the costs and benefits of different methods of allocating resources, goods and services.

In this economics lesson, students will assess the costs and benefits of product allocation methods.



Tell students they will be examining ways to make decisions in this lesson. Display four or five pieces of candy to the class. Ask how many would like to have a piece of candy. You should see more hands than available pieces. Explain that you would like to give them the candy, but there is a problem: the candy supply is limited and cannot be given to all students. Tell them that it is a common problem in society; people want more than is available so decisions must be made about how to allocate resources, goods and services. Remind them that allocate means to distribute or give out shares of a total amount. Ask students if they can help you brainstorm a few different ways to allocate the limited pieces of candy in the classroom. Record their ideas on the board. After discussing a few suggestions, tell students that you will make a decision about how to allocate the candy at the end of the lesson.
Explain that every society needs a system for allocating resources, and that different economic systems approach the problem differently. But, regardless of the system used, there is never enough to satisfy everyone because resources are limited and wants are unlimited. Because resources are limited, the goods and services they are used to produce are also limited. Remind students that economies have various rules about allocating resources, and those rules determine the type of competition that takes place in those economies.


Tell students they are now going to learn about the costs and benefits of allocating resources. Distribute copies of the reading Resources: Allocation, Competition and Productivity  and the Allocation Methods Chart. Instruct students to use the reading to complete only the column first column of the chart entitled “Description” because they will use the remaining columns later in the lesson. Once students are finished reading and completing the first column of their charts, review the descriptions of each allocation method with the class by calling on volunteers. Ask students if they have any questions before proceeding. See answers here.

Group Activity

Remind students that you still have not made a final decision about solving the candy dilemma discussed earlier in the lesson. Place students in small groups and tell them you need their help to solve the problem. Have students complete the remaining columns of the Allocations Methods Chart, considering how the candy might be allocated and evaluating the costs and benefits of using each method to do so. For example, when using the rule of force method, the candy could be allocated through a class fight where the victors take the candy. While this method benefits those who are strong and may motivate others to become stronger, the potential costs include it is very destructive and may result in injuries. After giving students sufficient time to complete the activity, review their answers and have each group defend their responses. Tell students you have finally made a decision about allocating the candy. Some choices include giving it to the group with the best answers or finding a different solution, such as a lottery where you choose a group of students at random. Once you have made a decision and allocated the candy, ask students how they feel about the method used. Have them identify the costs and benefits of the decision made. Remind students that societies make these kinds of decision each day, with varying results of citizen satisfaction.

Individual Activity

Distribute copies of the Allocation, Competition, and Productivity Matching Game. Tell students to complete the assignment, matching the person with the most appropriate allocation method. Have students write a brief explanation of their answers. Debrief the lesson by reviewing student answers. While student reasons may vary somewhat, it is important to be sure they are reasonable within the lesson guidelines.


Students can test their knowledge by taking the Online Multiple Choice Quiz or you may decide to use the Multiple Choice Quiz Printable Version and test them in class.


Activity 1

Distribute copies of the First Come, First Serve Allocation Game. Explain the rules of the game to students as shown on the handout. Have students complete their times for starting to wait and collect their answers. Determine the winners using the formula on the handout and announce the winners. (Note: you may want to have a prize for the top ten.) If there is a tie for the 10th winning place, give all those who arrived at the same time $100 as part of their score also. To reduce the probability of ties, allow the students to state their arrival times down in quarters of hours (3:00 a.m. or 3:15 a.m., for example). Of course, it is important for students to choose their arrival time independently, so that no student knows what another student is doing.

Debrief the activity with the following questions:

  1. What have you learned from this experience? (Answers will vary.)
  2. What this “first come-first serve” strategy a productive one? (Answers will vary.)
  3. Was it worth your time to wait for the $100? (Answers will vary.)
  4. Would you wait in line again, knowing what you do now? Why or why not? (Answers will vary.)
  5. What, if anything, would you change about your start time? (Answers will vary – but remind students that their time is a valuable resource.)
  6. What, if any, “real life” situations use first come-first serve? (Almost any activity with a limited number of tickets or seating such as concerts or special classes will use this type of allocation method.)