Today's Attendance Question

What song is playing right now?

Please be fully present in lecture.

No phones.

No tablets.*

No laptops.

* If you want to take notes on an iPad, please sit up front.

Welcome to Econ 50

Christopher Makler

Stanford University Department of Economics

Econ 50: Lecture 1

Today's Agenda


Course Overview

Course Structure and Policies

Math Review: Multivariable Functions and Level Sets


TA Intros





Chris Makler

  • B.A.: Humanities, Yale
  • Ph.D.: Economics, Penn
    (search & matching theory)
  • 10 years in the education technology industry
  • Teaching Econ 50 & 51 since 2015
  • Office: Landau Econ Building, Room 144

Welcome to Econ 50!


What are you planning on majoring in?

Econ Department Peer Advising

Other Resources

VPTL Peer Tutoring


Why are
you here?

"Individual consumer and firm behavior
under perfect competition.


The role of markets and prices in a decentralized economy.


Monopoly in partial equilibrium.


Economic tools developed from multivariable calculus using partial differentiation
and techniques for constrained and unconstrained optimization."

It's probably not the sexiness of the course description:

Econ 50 unlocks Econ 51/52, plus...

  • History of Financial Crises (Econ 110)
  • Money and Banking (Econ 111)
  • Decision Modeling and Information (Econ 137)
  • Environmental Economics and Policy (Econ 155)
  • Economic, Legal, & Political Analysis of Climate-Change Policy (Econ 159)
  • Microeconomics (PublPol 301A/IPS204A)
  • Economic Analysis (MS&E 241)
  • Climate Policy Analysis (MS&E 294)
  • Energy Policy Analysis (MS&E 295)
  • British Economic Policy since World War II (OSPOxfrd 45)
  • Poverty and Policies in Developing Economies (PublPol 184)

Add 102A and you unlock...

Add 102B and you unlock...

  • Economics of Health and Medical Care (Econ 126, BioMed 156/256, HRP 256)
  • Finance for Non-MBA's (Econ 135, MS&E 245G)
  • Behavioral Economics (Econ 178)
  • Economics of Health Improvement in Developing Countries (Econ 127, Med 262)
  • Economics of Education (Econ 146)
  • Economic Policy Analysis (Econ 150, PubPol 104/204)

So why is this course
a prerequisite
for so many others?

Ways to Think about Learning


"knowing when" - given an unstructured problem, which model/framework is most relevant?




"knowing why" - how do different concepts/models relate to one other? 

"knowing how" - given a well-defined problem, ability to follow correct procedure to solve it

"knowing that" - facts and figures, vocabulary

Goals of the Course


Develop rigorous approach to economic modeling; understand how assumptions map into conclusions.




Understand the relationships between
words, math, and graphs.

Learn the techniques of
optimization, equilibrium, and comparative statics.

Know the definitions of key economic terms.

The overall goal of this course is to prepare you
for all the courses -- and jobs -- that build upon this material...

...by providing you with technical training to solve problems...

...and the ability to take an unstructured situation in the real world
and convert it into a structured, solvable problem.

It's not about the particular models 
we're looking at in this class.


It's about learning how to use
the "building blocks" of economic models

to construct models of things you're interested in.

Course Overview

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.


Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

This planet has — or rather had —
a problem, which was this:


most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.

Many solutions were proposed
for this problem...

...but most of these were largely concerned with the movements
of small green pieces of paper,

which is odd because on the whole
it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.









Part I:
The Real Economy






Part II: Little Green
Pieces of Paper

Three Fundamental Tools of Analysis


Given a fixed set of circumstances (prices, technology, preferences), how do economic agents (consumers, firms) make choices? 

Comparative Statics

How do changes in circumstances (changing prices, shifting technology, preferences, etc.) translate into changes in behavior? 


How do economic systems converge toward certain outcomes?

Course Structure and Policies

Before Lecture

  • Read the textbook and take online quizzes on the major points to be prepared for learning in lecture


  • Presents new ideas
  • Illustrate those ideas with simple examples

After Lecture

  • Exercises for each lecture are designed to help you understand nuance
  • More complex examples and applications than in lectures; work on connecting the dots

After Each Unit

  • Exam questions will ask you to apply concepts from lecture to new situations you haven't seen before.

Pre-Class Quizzes and In-Class PollEverywhere (10% of your grade)

  • Purpose: get the most out of lecture, by providing incentives to
    read the textbook before class and be fully present during class

  • Each category counts for 5% of your grade.

  • Each category has a 20 percentage point "boost":
    if you get 80% or more right becomes 100%, 70% becomes 90%, etc.

  • Realistically, as long as you come to most classes and put in effort
    into each of the quizzes, these don't affect your grade.

  • You do not need to email me if you're going to miss class.
    You cannot "make up" PollEverywhere points.
    Just make every effort to make it to every class you can.


If you're going to miss class, what should you do?

Homework (25% of your grade)

  • Due each Tuesday and Saturday (none after an exam).

  • Each exercise (including old exam questions) is worth 3 points.

  • The grade is a message:
    • 3 points (check-plus): You've got this!

    • 2 points (check): You should review the solution set.

    • 1 point (check-minus): You should review this material.

  • You do not have to do them all. Recommend doing 2-3 problems in each.

  • Full credit (100 points total) for 6.66 points per problem set.

  • Maximum 9 points per problem set.

  • No homeworks accepted after 8am morning after due (automatic grace period until then)

  • You must assign pages in Gradescope to get your work graded!


If you don't have much time for homework, what should you do?

Checkpoint Exams (30% of your grade)

  • Fridays of Week 4, 6, and 8

  • Meant to be a way for you to self-assess and keep on track

  • Three exams means that the stakes are lower for each one than if we had one "killer midterm:"

    • Highest score is 20% of your grade

    • Second highest score is 10% of your grade

    • Lowest score is dropped

  • Note: if you miss two checkpoints, your highest possible grade in the course is a 90%.

  • Assume you will get COVID for the third exam, which will prevent you from taking it.

Final Exam (35% of your grade)

  • Wednesday, June 12 at 8:30am (set by University)

  • You must take the exam here in person unless you're traveling on Stanford business, or if you've started a summer job or internship; sorry.

  • If you have a summer job or internship, you are responsible for finding someone official to administer the test concurrently with the rest of the class. We need to know who that's going to be by Memorial Day (end of Week 8).

  • If you have to miss the final due to illness or emergency, you may take an Incomplete only if:

    • You scored a C or better on at least two Checkpoint exams, AND
    • You have a (curved) score of at least 80% on your quizzes and PollEverywhere grades (so a raw score of at least 60%), AND
    • Your homework score is at least 80 points

Friday, May 10

Checkpoint 2

Friday, April 26

Checkpoint 1

Wednesday, June 12

Final Exam





Friday, May 24

Checkpoint 3

Price List

Alternative Grading Scheme:

Pay to Play!

Sponsored by 



Course Web Sites

All content is posted/linked within Canvas.

Each week has its own module with everything you need to know about that week.

Please use Ed Discussions to ask questions (not email).

Please submit homeworks via Gradescope.

Helpful videos from UCSD are available for free, courtesy of UCSD.

Link in the syllabus; videos corresponding to each class will be posted on the syllabus and on ED.

Advice for You from Former Students (from course evals)

"Be prepared for the psets to be fairly more difficult than the examples worked out during lecture.
Sometimes there might be a disconnect between lecture and psets, too."

"Class is difficult, but there are so many resources available to help you. Make use of office hours."

"It's a lot of work, but if you stay on top of it, you'll be fine.
Definitely recommend doing all the psets and as many past exam questions as you can.
Makler's exam kinda made me want to cry, but everyone walked out kinda wanting to cry, so it's okay, probably."

"Organized, streamlined, and despairingly efficient.
This class crunches through concepts and ideas faster than you can get a good grip of them.
Makler is very approachable with questions, however, even if he memes on us a lot."

"...If you can, take the course together with your friends; they may be a great resource in helping you
grasp the course concepts! If you decide to take ECON 50, I hope you have a great time
and that you find a close-knit community of fellow enthusiasts of Economics."

The Small Print

  • Names and pronouns
  • Students with documented disabilities
  • Stanford University Honor Code
  • Econ Department syllabus
  • Humor gone wrong

Office Hours

  • Come to office hours! Starting later this week...watch ED for details.
  • Try your hand at the homework before coming to office hours; don't just come and do the homework in front of me. Then come with points of confusion and we'll talk through it.

Before Next Class

  • Be sure you've filled out the section form
  • Read Chapter 2 of the online textbook
  • Take the quiz

Econ 50 | Lecture 01

By Chris Makler

Econ 50 | Lecture 01

Welcome to Econ 50

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