When a farmer wants to have more than one crop, she has an option: grow multiple crops herself, or specialize in one crop and then trade. Which option is better, and how do producers decide whether to diversify in production, or specialize and trade?

In this lesson, students use linear relationships and proportional reasoning to explore comparative advantage and the risks and benefits of trade.

Students will

  • Given rates of production for two competing goods, calculate the maximum possible production for each good based on resource constraints
  • Create examples of production schedules for two goods with output levels linear in a single resource
  • For two farmers specializing in different goods, examine the benefits of trade when compared with each farmer producing both goods independently
  • Discuss the pros and cons of trade when producers have comparative advantages in production

Before you begin

Given a linear relationship, students should be able to create a table of values and plot ordered pairs as points in the coordinate plane.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


Jason Brown, Ronald Barr, Joe Stanley, George McGregor