Virtual Adaptation – PLAY: The Ultimatum Game

PLAY: The Ultimatum Game is a classroom experiment that demonstrates how irrational humans can be when making financial decisions. With this game, students will explore the behavior and emotions behind the financial decisions they make. In this activity, students will be presented with this scenario:

Two Teacher Tips:

  1. As classroom discussion will be key to learning the behavioral finance principles of this activity, it is important to review the Teacher Guide before facilitating this activity with your students. 
  2. The usual payout in the Ultimatum Game experiment is cash. As this is not feasible in the classroom setting, you may want to substitute something inexpensive that students value such as extra credit.


At a time where many schools have transitioned to offering remote learning, we’ve listed some synchronous adaptations that may work for your current classroom environment. 


Synchronous Implementation Ideas With Breakout Rooms:

  • Break your students into groups of three students. Be very clear which student will take on which role.
    • One student will take the role of the Proposer.
    • One student will take the role of the Responder.
    • One student will take the role of Witness.
      • It may be a good idea to have students break into their Breakout Room for a few minutes to clearly define who is taking on which role.
  • Follow the prompts and scenario given in The Ultimatum Game Slides except students will verbally give their responses rather than writing it on a notecard. The Witness should keep track of time while also observing and recording information to report back to the class. Here is a Google Form that you can customize or use with your students.
  • Follow the additional directions listed in The Ultimatum Game Slides but have the Witness report the dollar value offered and whether it was accepted or denied as stated on slide 9.


Synchronous Implementation Ideas Without Breakout Rooms:

  • Instead of breaking students into partners or small groups, the teacher will take on the role of Proposer and make an offer to the students.
  • The students will note whether they will accept or decline the offer in a Google Form. Here is an example you can use or customize. 
  • You can then view the responses of each student and call on students directly to explain to the class why he/she decided to accept or decline.


A great way to end the activity using whichever format you choose (breakout room or whole class activity), is by watching “How Economists Think Differently From Other Humans” from PBS NewHour which features behavioral economist Richard Thaler. 



There are additional behavioral finance lessons available in the NGPF Mini Units and as an introduction unit to the NGPF Semester Course


View NGPF’s Virtual Adaptation Series if you’re looking for additional resources with suggestions on how to facilitate in a virtual environment!

About the Author

Amanda Volz

Amanda joins the NGPF Team with 18 years of experience teaching personal finance. During that time, she led her students to hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships, won multiple awards, and most importantly, impacted the financial lives of thousands of high school students. Amanda prides herself on being an educational leader and is constantly looking for innovative ways to make the classroom relevant, rigorous, and fun. She is a passionate advocate for financial education and has been a long time member of the NGPF community. Fun fact – Amanda was NGPF’s first teacher account! When Amanda isn’t working, she enjoys cooking, gardening, and traveling with her husband and two children.

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