Principles of Microeconomics

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General course information and requirements

Semester: Spring 2015
Course: Economics 215, Principles of Microeconomics, section 5 (3 credits)
Instructor: Dr. Stonebraker
Office: 401 Thurmond
Office phone: 323-2488
E-mail address:
Office hours:  M 3:30-5 pm, T 2-3:30 pm, W 1-2 pm, TR 2-4:30 pm and F 10:30 am-12 pm (no appointment needed)
                        Other times are available by appointment.

Course goals and objectives:

The course is designed to give students a solid foundation in understanding and applying basic microeconomic concepts and links to University-Level Competency #1: Winthrop graduates think critically and solve problems. The course will challenge students to think critically about a wide range of current microeconomic issues such as the efficiency of a competitive market system and problems of poverty and income inequality. Students also will develop an understanding of the thought processes needed to solve optimization problems.


Principles of Microeconomics, by Rittenberg and Tregarthen.  This is a customized online text that can be accessed at and is published by Flat World Knowledge. You will be asked to set up an account and then choose among several options. You can buy a "study pass" that allows online access to the text for $24, a digital "all access" pass that includes PDFs and files for e-readers, tablets and smartphones for $42, a black and white printed version for $69, or a color printed version for $134. You may purchase the "all-access" pass from the Winthrop bookstore as well. While exam questions are based on the lecture material and problem sets, the text material closely parallels the lectures. Good lecture notes and conscientious textbook reading reinforce each other. Supplemental videos and web-based readings are listed in the course outline below.  To access a reading, click on the title.
The grading will be straight letter grades: no plusses or minuses. Four exams will determine 92% of your grade. Writing assignments will determine the remaining  8% of your grade. The weight for each assignment is:

Exam questions will stress analysis rather than factual information and will be based both on the material presented in class and the assigned problem sets. You will be expected to write short essay/explanation answers and to solve graphical and numerical problems. Students caught copying/cheating will be dealt with harshly. The final exam will be given at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 30 and will include some specified review material.  Only calculators provided by the instructor will not be permitted during exams.  College students should be able to do arithmetic. The approximate grading scale will be:

        86 - 100%      A
        72 - 85%        B
        60 - 71%        C
        50 - 59%        D
          0 - 49%        F

Click here for a spreadsheet that will calculate your course average.
Make-up policy:
Make-up exams will be given to students with what I judge to be a valid excuse. Needing more time to study is not a valid excuse. If you can't make an exam I expect to be notified as quickly as possible, preferably before the exam. Students who do not notify me in a timely manner should not expect a make-up exam.
Writing assignments:
Students will be expected to submit a journal applying course concepts and written explanations of two different economic concepts. Detailed instructions and due dates will be distributed during the semester.
Problem sets:
A number of problem sets will be distributed though the semester.  You will not be asked to turn them in and they will not be graded.  The answers are posted on the course web page. It will be your responsibility to do these problems, check the answers, and ask questions about any that are not clear. Since I do not collect or grade these assignments, some students may choose to ignore them or try them the night before the test. This is an excellent strategy for those hoping to receive a poor grade.  Similar problems will appear on exams.
Electronic devices:
I expect never to see cell phones in class. That means no texting and no checking messages; even under the desk where you think I will not see them.  Laptops, tablets or similar electronic devices may be used for note-taking or specified course activities with the instructorís permission. Students using these devices must turn off the wireless function and close all applications/windows other than the allowed document or application. Each time a student is caught violating this policy I will deduct one point from his/her final average.
Attendance policy:
You should attend every class on time and are responsible for all class material whether or not you attend. Students will lose two points from their final average for every class missed in excess of three (except for required, official Winthrop activities such as class trips or varsity sport participation). An exception might be made for students forced to miss more than three classes because of documented medical problems.
Class will start promptly each day. Students will be assigned one absence for every two times they arrive late. If a student signs in for another, both students will be given three absences.
Course withdrawal:
Wednesday, March 11 is the last day to withdraw from a full fall semester course.  (Automatic N grade is issued.)  Students may not withdraw from a course after this date without documented extenuating circumstances.
Students with disabilities:
Winthrop University is dedicated to providing access to education.  If you have a disability and need classroom accommodations, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 323-3290 as soon as possible.  Once you have your Professor Notification Form, please tell me so that I am aware of your accommodations well before the first assignment.
As a student you should expect me to take my class responsibilities seriously.  You should expect me to deliver quality instruction in each class, to start and end each class on time, to be responsive to student perspectives and questions, and to treat each of you with respect.  As an instructor, in addition to adherence to Winthropís Code of Student Conduct, I expect similarly responsible behavior from you. 
How to succeed in this course:
I asked previous students.  Do you want their advice?  Click here.

Course Outline

I. Fundamental Concepts
A. Scarcity and choice
B. Economic models
C. Trade and comparative advantage
     Chapters 1 and 2 (an appendix gives a useful review of understanding graphs)
     Video: Production Possibilities Frontier
     Video: PPF and Increasing Opportunity Costs
     Video: Comparative Advantage
     Video: Nobody Knows How to Do Anything
     How to Produce

II. Markets, Prices and Efficiency
A. Demand and supply
     Chapter 3
     Video: Determinants of Demand
     Video: Shifting the Demand Curve
     Video: Supply Shifts
     Video: Market Equilbrium
     Video: Demand Shifts and Equilibrium
     Video: Supply Shifts and Equilibrium
     The Untied Knot: Marriage on the Skids

Exam #1: Approximately Tuesday, February 3

B. Elasticity
     Chapter 4
     Video: Calculating Price Elasticity of Demand
     Video: Determinants of Price Elasticity
     Video: Elasticity and Total Revenue
     Video: Other Elasticities

C. Price controls, taxes, and subsidies
     Chapter 5
     Video: Taxes on Producers
     Video: Price Floors
     Video: Price Ceilings
III. Behind Demand: Consumer Theory
Chapter 6
 Video: Maximizing Utility
IV. Behind Supply: Competitive Markets
A. Cost of production
     Chapter 7
     Video: Marginal Product and Marginal Cost
     Video: Short-Run Cost Curves
     Video: Returns to Scale and Long-Run Costs
Exam #2: Approximately Tuesday, March 3

B. Competitive market behavior
     Chapter 8
     Video: Profit-Maximizing Rule
     Video: Competitive Market Equilibrium
     Video: Shut-Down Rule
C. Competitive market efficiency

V. Imperfect Competition
A. Monopoly
     Chapter 9
     Video: Monopolistic MR
     Video: Monopoly Equilibrium
B. Oligopoly and monopolistic competition
     Chapter 10
     Video: Monopolistic Competition
     Video: Game Theory
     Arms Races  
Exam #3: Approximately Tuesday, April 7

VI. Externalities and Public Goods
Chapter 11
 Video: Externalities
 Video: Public Goods

VII. Labor and Resource Markets
A. Marginal productivity theory
     Video: MRP and MRC
B. Labor market issues
     It Isn't Easy Being Green
     Chapter 12
VIII. Poverty and Income Distribution Issues
Chapter 15

Exam #4 (Final Exam): 11:30 a.m., Thursday, April 30

I reserve the right to modify this syllabus with cause if unexpected circumstances occur.

Last modified 01/02/15