Chain Game


Number Sense and Numeration

  • Represent, compare and order equivalent representation of numbers
  • Solve problems involving whole numbers

Data Management

  • Collect and organize primary and secondary data and display data using charts and graphs
  • Apply data management tools to make convincing arguments about data

Geography:  Economic Systems

  • Compare economies of different communities, regions, or countries, including the influence of factors such as industries, access to resources and access to markets


Each table group will be given a different combination of materials and challenged to create paper chains to be sold and traded on the “world market.” A “world bank” is set up which will only accept paper chains of a certain quality. As the simulation continues, the world bank may supplement or take away resources from each group, requiring groups adapt their paper chain making based on their available resources. The world bank keeps track of how many paper chains are sold for each group. The group that acquires the most currency is the wealthiest.

Remind students that simulations can sometimes evoke emotions. They should be attuned to their feelings so that they can be shared in the debrief.


For students:

  • 5 large envelopes
  • 36 sheets of newspaper
  • 10 sheets of coloured paper
  • 10 scissors
  • 10 glue sticks
  • 9 pencils
  • 8 rulers (metric)

For teacher-facilitators:

  • 5 staplers
  • extra staples
  • chart paper
  • markers
  • large bags/bins
  • tape
  • bell
  • clipboards
  • list of talking points/questions
  • calculator (just in case!)
  • stopwatch
  • optional: paper money for the banker to give as each group gives its chain to the bank

Distribution of Materials

Group A

  • 1 sheet of newspaper
  • 1 sheet of colored paper
  • five pairs of scissors
  • five glue sticks
  • five pencils
  • five rulers

Group B

  • four sheets of newspaper
  • one sheet of colored paper
  • three pairs of scissors
  • three glue sticks
  • three pencils

Group C

  • six sheets of newspaper
  • two pairs of scissors
  • two glue sticks
  • two rulers

Group D

  • ten sheets of newspaper
  • one ruler
  • one pencil

Group E

  • 15 sheets of newspaper
  • eight sheets of colored paper


  • Share with the class that they will be producing paper chains for “The World Bank” (Appendix A) in a simulation of a global economy.
  • Inform students that each 3-link chain can be sold to the banker for 5 currency units.
  • Explain that there will be quality control.  Poorly constructed chains will not be accepted.
  • Hand out the materials to each group.
  • Inform students that resources can be traded or bought as production continues.
  • A group leader will record each time the group sells a paper chain to the “world bank,” along with whether they trade or buy something from another group.


  1. Students begin chain-making.
  2. Ring bell at Minute 9 and announce a price drop to 3 units of currency per chain.
    Students continue chain-making.
  3. Ring bell at Minute 14 and announce a price drop to 1 unit of currency.
    Introduce demand for colour paper chains at 5 units of currency.
    Students continue chain-making.
  4. Ring bell at Minute 19 and announce that a new technology – staplers – is available for purchase at 35 units of currency.
    Announce that stapled chains (3-link chains) will receive current market price, plus an additional 15 units of currency (16 units/newspaper, 20 units/colour paper).
  5. Ring bell at Minute 23 and announce that chain-making concludes in two minutes.
  6. Conclude the game at Minute 25
    Students may sell any remaining chains to the bank.


It is important to reflect on the activity, as students need to discuss feelings that arose during the simulation, as well as probe the issues revealed by the mathematics of the various exchanges. The following questions are modeled from Susan Fountain’s book, Education for Development: A Teacher’s Resource for Global Learning (UNICEF, 1995) and help stimulate discussion. Carefully considering the mathematical questions in #2 will help to define the broader social issues revealed in this simulation.

  1. What did it feel like to open your bag of materials and see you were starting at a disadvantage?
  2. Which group earned the most money? Which group earned the least? (How) did this difference relate to their starting or ongoing resources? Graph the relationship between resources and earnings. What was the difference between the lowest and highest earning groups? What was the average (mean) earning? How far did groups deviate from that mean? By what percentage did the earnings of the highest earning group exceed those of the lowest earning group? On average, how many chains were produced in a minute without staplers? How many were produced in a minute with staplers? By what factor did the new technology increase production? By what factor did the new technology increase profits?
  3. What happened when you didn’t have resources to trade?
  4. What sorts of trades were negotiated?  (Exchanges for raw materials, technology, labour)
  5. How did you deal with things being unfair?
  6. What kinds of inter-dependencies or divisions of labour were worked out within groups?
  7. Were any cooperative arrangements made between groups?
  8. What was the effect on wealthier groups of the falling world market price for chains?  For poorer groups?
  9. Which groups were able to purchase new technology?
  10. Did the new technology help all groups? (Or did the development of new technology allows wealthy groups to get wealthier, while poorer groups got poorer?)
  11. When your chain was worth less and you got paid less, what happened in your group? Did you work harder to make as much money?
  12. Identify the social justice focus of the game or any real life connections

Thanks to Bev Caswell, Jeremy Debicki, Kimberly Liang, Laura Mostmand, Kathryn Whalley (Teacher Candidates, Inner City Option , OISE, October, 2006) who adapted Susan Fountain’s work into a lesson plan.

The Chain Game is from Education for Development: A Teacher’s Resource for Global Learning by Susan Fountain (UNICEF, 1995).