TedEd: Hotelling Model

This animated clip illustrates the Hotelling Model well (even though they don’t mention it), but can also be used to introduce the idea of sequential moves.

The Princess Bride: Battle of Wits

The Battle of Wits scene may be one of the best game theory examples that students have scene before. It’s a great opportunity to introduce the concept of full information and knowing what the other one knows.

Golden Balls: Coordination

In the great British game show, Golden Balls, contestants must decide whether to cooperate with each other or be devious.  The dramatic outcome of the game (replicated here) is that one will steal and the other will be honest. This variant of the game has a unique twist to ensure cooperation.

Golden Balls: Split or Steal

In one of the greatest game theory game shows produced, contestants play a simultaneous-move game where they must decide whether to split or steal money from each other.

A Beautiful Mind: Ignoring the Blonde

The classic scene from A Beautiful Mind when Nash (Russell Crowe) and his friends are discussing governing dynamics. Nash’s realization is not that of a Nash Equilibrium, but rather the classic view of Adam Smith (everyone doing what’s best for themselves) is harmful compared to if they just work together for the common good. It can be a bit confusing since the Nash Equilibrium is not that people should work together for the great good, but this is still a good introduction to a lesson game theory because it helps introduce why it might be harmful for everyone to only do what’s in their own best interest.

Friends: They Don’t Know That We Know


When teaching game theory, we inevitably spill into the notion of complete information with they “they know we know” and “we know that they know we know.” Now you can have Friends do it for you:

Numb3rs: Monty Hall Problem

Charlie teaches his class “Math for Non-Mathematicians” the Monty Hall problem, where a game show contestant must decide whether to change their minds if given the option of 3 cards.

Numb3rs: Ultimatum Game

Charlie explains the Ultimatum Game to Nikki and why some people are willing to hurt themselves for revenge. When Nikki gives him $30 out of $100, she’s showing that concerns for equity lead people to act differently than what’s “optimal.”

Survivor — 21 Flags

Survivor: Thailand played a unique game for an elimination challenge by having contestants remove flags until a team has the final flag. This game illustrates the concept of backward induction in game theory, by having teams think backward from the final move. Once the optimal strategy is acquired, we realize that there is a first mover’s advantage.

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