Rice economics instructor James “Jimmy” DeNicco has become known around campus for his straightforward and entertaining approach to teaching ECON 100, “Principles of Economics,” explaining complicated concepts using real-world examples like Texas barbecue, pop culture references and more.
His fun and unconventional approach has won him some of the university’s top teaching awards, including the coveted George R. Brown Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Now, DeNicco’s creativity in the classroom is available in a customized electronic textbook he authored especially for his Rice students.
His inspiration for writing “A Story of Economics: A Principles Tale” came after hearing from students who had trouble affording materials for his class.
“I didn’t want to continue to put my students in the often uncomfortable position of having to explain that they lacked the resources for course materials,” DeNicco said. “I wanted to remove that obstacle for students who want to take the class.”
DeNicco took advantage of extra free time during the early days of the pandemic to create a more affordable option for his students. He spent three years writing and illustrating the 368-page e-book, which is now available to his students for $30.
Inside, readers will find the same engaging and lively examples he uses in his classroom, peppered with plenty of humorous personal photos, anecdotes and even a few recipes – all carefully curated to grab and hold the attention of his students while introducing them to economics.
“Really, I just set out to put my classroom stories and examples down on paper,” he said. “The book really matches up perfectly with my class.”
DeNicco, who also offers courses through Rice Online, has developed digital resources that complement the e-book, including problem-solving videos where he explains concepts in greater detail. He said these are especially helpful for students who might not grasp concepts the first time around or may be shy about asking for help in class.
“I can’t say enough good things about Rice Online,” DeNicco said. “They were so helpful with photography and other material that made this book a reality.”
All in all, DeNicco hopes the book gives his students – and anyone else who uses it – an introduction to and understanding of economics while having some fun along the way.
“You will certainly become better acquainted with both the principles of economics and Texas style barbecue if you read the book,” he laughed. “I hope the students enjoy reading it as much as I had fun writing it!”