Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

In this economics lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 6-12, students use BrainPOP resources to explore how a country can gain from trade according to the Heckscher-Ohlin theory.

Students will:

  1. Define "economic theory" and the Heckscher-Ohlin theory.
  2. Explore an economic theory through online interactive game play.
  3. Explain how a country can gain from trade according to the Heckscher-Ohlin theory.


  • Enough computers with internet access for each pair of students to use
  • Interactive whiteboard (or just an LCD projector)
  • Photocopies of the activities and graphic organizer


goods; services; consumer; producer; supply; demand; equilibrium point


To prepare for this lesson, make a double-sided class set of photocopies for the activity and graphic organizer. After building background knowledge with these materials and a BrainPOP movie, students will explore economic theory via The Trade Ruler game. This game is set in "the Hechscher-Ohlin world"." The objective is to make an island (country) prosper by trading. As a ruler of an island, students will engage in international trade to achieve this goal. For instructions on how to play the game, click on the HELP button found at the bottom of the game window, or learn more about the game at The site also provides background information on economic theory. Portions of this lesson plan have been adapted from these resources.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Pass out the activity and graphic organizer photocopies. As a review and warm up, have students work in pairs or small groups to complete the activity.
  2. Talk about the answers to the activity as a class and review the vocabulary terms it contains.
  3. Play the Supply and Demand movie for the class. Be sure to turn on closed captioning to aid students in comprehension.
  4. Have students rejoin their partners or small groups to complete the graphic organizer on the back of the activity sheet. Facilitate their discussions as needed.
  5. Ask students about the economic theories and principles mentioned in the movie. How do countries use trade to increase their incomes?
  6. Project the Why Trade? page of the website and use it as a springboard for discussion about the Heckscher-Ohlin Economic Theory. Guide students to understand that the Heckscher-Ohlin theory says that when two countries trade goods with each other, they achieve greater economic welfare if 5 specific conditions hold true.
  7. Tell students they will have the opportunity to explore this theory through an interactive game. Project the Trade Ruler game and walk students through the initial screens to model how to choose an island, develop an avatar, and choose a trade partner. Explain that students will have just 15-20 minutes to play the game and should be careful to limit the amount of time they spend on this portion of the game.
  8. Share the link to the Trade Ruler game with students and have them access it in pairs. Direct students to use the "help" button as needed if they get stuck during game play.
  9. After about 15 minutes, bring students back to a whole group discussion. Was the Heckscher-Ohlin theory helpful during game play? Which of the five conditions of the theory seemed to have the most influence over the level of prosperity each country enjoyed? What happens when capital and labor are not available in the same proportion in the two countries? How does specialization benefit countries? Guide students to understand that according to the theory, the more different the countries are regarding the capital-to-labor ratio, the greater the economic gain from specialization and trade.

Extension Activities:

Challenge students to design an ideal scenario in which two imaginary countries benefit the most from trade, according to the Heckscher-Ohlin theory. They can name their countries and select the specialization of each. Students can share this information by creating an infographic or image similar to the ones on the Why Trade? page of the website. You may also want students to explain their thinking verbally or in writing.

Be sure to explore the other games featured in BrainPOP's GameUp!