Marginalism and maths teaching in introductory economics

Martin K. Jones (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-200
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Pluralism and Economics Education
Issue number2
Early online date4 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Introductory economics
  • Marginalism
  • Mathematics teaching in economics
  • Maths

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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