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Game Theory

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Overview of the Activity:

  • Play a version of The Prisoner's Dilemma as described below.
  • Imagine playing this with your own students within the initial days of class.
  • Then answer the questions at the end of this webpage in the Forum below.




Rules of the Game:

  • One round occurs when each player chooses a cooperate or compete card, places it face down and then turns it over at the same time as their opponent.
  • Score the round as directed below (See Scoring).
  • Play an unlimited number of rounds and keep score of each round. The game manager/teacher will tell you when to stop.
  • Play another trial against a different opponent.
  • Discuss after 2-3 trials.


  • Both players cooperate = Both recieve $3

  • Both players compete = Both are recieve $1

  • You cooperate and other player competes = You recieve $0, the other player recieves $5

  • You compete and the other player cooperates = You recieve $5, the other player recieves $0




Or Play a version of this called "The Prisoner's Dilemma" online at Serendip:


Find out what's so important about this game form "Chaos, cheating and cooperation: potential solutions to the Prisoner's Dilemma" by Björn Brembs.


More about Prisoner's Dilemma on Serendip



Final Questions: (Discuss in small groups and then answer as a group or individually in the Forum below).

  1. What can we learn about classroom dynamics from this game?
  2. What can students learn about school from this game?  Is school a game to them?
  3. Does this game model or reflect the interactions and rewards of your classroom? ...any classroom?
  4. Would it even be useful to model a classroom after a non-zero sum game?  How? and what would it take to make your classroom work as a non-zero sum game?


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