In the Market: Students engage in virtual stock exchange

By Paris Walther | Published Saturday, March 2, 2013

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“Do you want to go ahead and just put seven grand into it?”

“Let’s do it.”

Busy conversations bounce off classroom walls as Decatur High School honors economics students partake in a 10-week computer-simulated stock market activity titled “The Stock Market Game.”

“This is a virtual stock market game designed for students that allows them to get a real ‘feel’ of the stock market without any real risk,” DHS economics teacher Della Stallard said. “It also provides curriculum that will allow a teacher to incorporate the stock market into an economics class.”

The program lets students compete against each other to see who has accumulated the most money at the end of the 10 weeks. Students are in teams of two to five, and each team starts with $100,000 in virtual cash to buy stocks. They are also allowed to borrow another $100,000 to buy stocks on margin.

“The students buy stock on real time, meaning they buy stock at the current stock market price that real brokers are buying at on three different exchanges,” Stallard said.

The competition is statewide, but the students only compete against teams in their region. The North Texas region is made up of 336 teams. Winning group members each get $50 and a plaque. There is also an essay contest open to the students at the end of the class, where they have an opportunity to write about their experience in the stock market.

“Each day, the students can see where they are ranked and how their stock purchases are doing,” she said. “The online game offers current stock news and updated charts and reports for the students to use in making their stock decisions.”

At the beginning of class each day, students check on their stocks and make necessary adjustments. They are given the opportunity to ask questions and discuss with group members what their team’s next step should be.

“They have class time every day, some days longer than others,” Stallard said. “They also do a lot of checking throughout the day on their own time.”

Helping to lead one of the highest-ranked teams in the region and state, senior Max Junkert and his team, The Honeybadgers, came into the game as inexperienced rookies.

“I didn’t know that much,” Junkert said. “I just looked at it and tried to figure it out myself.”

Junkert, along with Dewey Dovel and Herman Mancilla, currently sit at fourth out of 280 teams in the region and 23rd out of 1,250 teams in the state. With only three months to observe the market and play, their team decided to take a faster approach to acquire more money in less time.

“I’m looking for cheap stocks that are sure to rise over a short period,” Junkert said. “I would be buying different stocks if I was looking to hold onto them for a year, but we only have 10 weeks.”

Interested in the dynamics of the game, Mancilla feels the activity gives him a closer look at the strategies and risks involved.

“It’s pretty cool,” Mancilla said. “It shows you how in the real stock market, you could gain money or lose it all.”

Knowing that there is no risk involved with their virtual money, the Honeybadgers don’t mind playing on uncertainty.

“I think if it’s showing a promising increase, take a chance. Look at all the facts, and if it looks good, go for it. Take a risk,” Dovel said. “Set a bar, and if it drops below that point – sell it.”

As he continues to learn how the stock market functions, Dovel feels confident about playing in the future.

“This game has given me a better idea about if I want to invest in the future,” he said. “I probably will; it’s going to take a lot of seeing how it looks, but if it looks to be in good shape, I will probably get involved.”

As she watches the different teams experiment, Stallard hopes to convince students to take more risks to help them learn what can happen with different purchases.

“Some of my students are being so cautious that I am about to force them to use up more of their money,” she said. “I want to encourage them to see what they can do, as this will be the only time they will ever get a chance to play the stock market in such a real way without actually losing any real money. So this next week I will have some new incentives to ‘ramp up’ the competition amongst our 10 teams.”

Excited with the results, Stallard feels that the hands-on learning application has already begun to give students a small taste of the stock market.

“This game has made many of my students realize how much risk is involved in the stock market,” she said. “And perhaps has instilled a bit of fear about throwing some real money at the market in their future.”

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