Teaching accounting principles courses continues to challenge
accounting educators because many students have difficulty with the
classes and often resist the commitment of time necessary for learning
accounting through traditional classroom presentation. This paper
presents alternatives to traditional pedagogical methods through games
that can be used to supplement the classroom instruction. The games are
designed to target accounting topics considered difficult by many
students, such as basic financial accounting terminology, financial
statement account classifications, Conceptual Framework terminology,
adjusting entries, and managerial accounting terminology. The proposed
games can be used as part of the traditional classroom or as activities
supplementary to the classroom.
"Creativity" is not usually a nice word in the accounting
profession, particularly in times of recently publicized reports of
"cooking the books." Accountants are not free to make their
own rules while playing the "business game;" instead they are
bound and constrained by acceptable practices and procedures. So how can
students and teachers learn to enjoy learning accounting practices and
procedures? Make learning accounting principles more attainable and fun
by using hands-on activities and games.
Studies have shown that students want to learn what is relevant to
them, want to be involved in their learning, and naturally resist
traditional teaching practices (Knowles, 1988). This attitude causes
students to become passive receptors of knowledge, and that passivity
can dampen the motivation and curiosity of the students (Davis, 1993).
Therefore, the teaching approach can potentially be more successful if
the focus is on actively engaging the student in the learning process
(Harris, 2000). The use of games is one method to increase student
activity and involvement in the learning process. "Students learn
best by doing ... because active learning situations provide
opportunities for students to test out what they have learned and how
thoroughly they understand it" (Davis, 1993). In a recent study,
professors found learning to be related to the students' preferred
teaching method. Students' exam grades were higher when their
preferred method was used in the classroom (Beets, 2001). This paper
focuses on alternative instructional methods and reports how games can
be used to reinforce classroom coverage of basic financial accounting
information in an instructional environment that is supplementary to the
Supplemental Instruction Program
The Supplemental Instruction (SI) program is a nationally organized
program used at over 800 universities in the United States, and similar
programs are used on university campuses around the world (UMKC, 2002).
Traditionally high-risk and problematic courses, such as financial
accounting principles and beginning managerial accounting courses, are
chosen for SI tutoring. The SI leaders are students who have already
completed these courses with an 'A' and who are able to serve
as model students or mentors for potential SI students. The SI program
challenges the students to perform to the best of their ability in the
course by increasing the coverage of the course material in creative
ways. Typically, students who participate in SI groups succeed at a
greater rate (i.e., lower withdrawal rate and lower percentage of D or F
final course grades) than those students who do not attend the bi-weekly
sessions (UMKC, 2002).
The SI groups focus on how to learn the subject and how to retain
information presented in the classroom lectures. The SI program has
three major goals: "(1) improve student grades in targeted courses,
(2) reduce the attrition rate within those courses, and (3) increase the
eventual graduation rates of students" (UMKC, 2002). Because of the
makeup of the SI groups, they are able to reinforce the overall learning
of the students by (1) providing a less formal, small-group atmosphere
in which to work with the material and interact with the leader and
other students and (2) allowing for individual positive feedback that
can be more easily achieved in a one-on-one and small-group format.
Research also revealed that often the best teaching/learning environment
occurs whenever one student explains a topic or concept, and hence
teaches another student (UMKC, 2002). The SI atmosphere provides an
opportunity for that to occur.
Through a small stretch of the imagination, teachers may now be
able to reach those students who do not easily grasp basic financial
accounting topics taught in textbooks. By using a creative medium,
game-playing, teaching and learning accounting principles may become
more readily achievable. Most students are not in an accounting class to
become accountants; they are there only to get the basics of the
accounting concepts. This can make the motivation for learning and hence
the motivation for teaching basic principles even more difficult.
Complacent attitudes for learning accounting are also a problem in
the business world, which creates a dilemma for human resource (HR)
departments all over the United States. In company training sessions, HR
departments have employed games and fun activities to teach employees
about financial information of the companies. One training manager uses
the music to "When the Saints Go Marching In" to teach
employees about the income statement and sings, "When the Income
Comes Marching In." She uses a seesaw to explain how the assets and
liabilities on the balance sheet must stay in balance. Other HR
departments use business-simulation board games to teach employees about
the rules of the business game. These HR departments believe in the
assumption that "people don't learn unless they're having
fun;" so they step outside the conventional classroom setting to
promote effective learning (Case, 1996). The SI environment provides a
venue for creativity and the use of games to teach accounting.
GAMES FOR BASIC ACCOUNTING INSTRUCTION
Basic financial accounting courses are filled with topics that are
difficult to understand without some prior knowledge or considerable
study and practice. Two of the most commonly difficult subjects are the
financial statements and their accounts and the introduction of accrual
basis accounting and adjusting entries. "Financial Statement
Bingo" and "What's The Adjusting Entry?" are games
created to reinforce these rudimentary topics and to target those
students who struggle to understand the basic textbook information
concerning these topics. The objective of using the instructional games
presented here is to help teach accounting concepts and definitions and
still have some fun, or "academic gain without pain!"
Financial Statement Bingo
"Financial Statement Bingo" is designed to help students
learn the appropriate classification of accounts on the financial
statements, namely the classified balance sheet and the income
statement. "Financial Statement Bingo" also addresses the
definitions of the basic accounting principles and assumptions which
govern the preparation of the financial statements. Materials needed to
play the game include: 1) bingo cards with spaces randomly arranged with
account classifications, principles and assumptions; 2) card markers to
mark the spaces on the cards; and 3) caller's cards with account
titles and definitions of assumptions and principles. Table 1 shows an
example of a Financial Statement Bingo card.
The caller should read the account name or principle definition on
the caller cards and allow players to find the appropriate account
classification or principle/assumption on the bingo card. The players
place markers on the box of choice in attempt to 'bingo' by
lining up markers, five in a row, in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal
pattern. To bingo, a player must correctly identify all five marked
spaces containing the account classification, assumption or principle on
the individual bingo cards as the caller gives the information. As is
the common practice in Bingo, the center space is designated as a free
space on all of the cards. It should be noted that it is difficult for
the students to "bingo" early in the course when they are
struggling to learn the account titles. At this time, there have been
twelve card variations used in the "Financial Statement Bingo"
game. However, more can be developed for use with larger groups.
Bingo can also be adapted to other topics than the financial
principles or managerial principles courses. For example, it can be used
with terminology from the Conceptual Framework Statements No. 2 and No.
5. See Table 2 for a sample set-up of these characteristics,
assumptions, and constraints.
Managerial Accounting Bingo
Since the Managerial Accounting Principles class often is also
considered a high-risk subject, additional practice for terminology from
the material from that course can also be set up in the Bingo format.
See Table 3 for an example of how it can be used for managerial
What's the Adjusting Entry?
"What's The Adjusting Entry?" is used to help
students get a basic understanding of adjusting entries by preparing
journal entries randomly picked from a game board. Materials needed to
play the game are: 1) game board with pockets (see Table 4 for a basic
diagram of the set-up), 2) Adjusting Entry cards, 3) a list of possible
transactions to be drawn from the game board and (4) journal page for
each player. To play, the game facilitator should insert one game card
into each pocket. A beginning player should choose a card from a pocket
and read the transaction information aloud to allow other players to
find the entry on the accompanying worksheet. The player should (1)
identify the basic type of adjusting entry (i.e., deferral or accrual)
and (2) write the correct journal entry on the board or overhead
projector. Each correct entry is worth one point. If the player gives an
incorrect entry, other players may have the opportunity to win the point
by giving the correct entry. The player with the most points wins. This
procedure helps students to understand the type of adjusting entry they
are dealing with, which guides them to the entry itself.
It is important to provide each student with a sheet of
transactions that might be chosen from the game board pockets. The game
has proven to work better, at the suggestion of the students, when they
are allowed to make the transaction on their own journal page while the
chosen player attempts to get the point by making the entry on the
board. The list of transactions is an extra study tool for those
students who might want to go back later and practice with the entries
used during the "Adjusting Entry" game session.
Both games have been used as practice tools and as test reviews.
When used as a practice tool, students tend to find the games more
difficult to play because they are still in the process of learning the
material. Students generally respond more readily and play more easily
when the games are used as a review tool. The games usually are played
in small SI groups of about 10 to 12 students. It is feasible, however,
to play these games with larger groups in an SI environment or in
regularly scheduled classes when time permits.
Several students have offered positive comments on the games, which
included the following: The games "helped review in a fun way and
made learning easier," "good review before the test," the
games "made you think about the answer," and the games
"spiced things up and made it much more fun."
The main objective of using these games is to give the students an
opportunity to think about the material and derive the answer on their
own. Students are benefited when they are given the opportunity to
actively apply key concepts and principles. The more frequently they are
allowed to attempt this application to different situations, the better
the chance they will be able to remember and use those new concepts
(Davis, 1993). Many times during class and study sessions, students sit
and "absorb" the material as an instructor lectures and makes
other presentations of the material. However, that is not usually the
most effective learning environment. It is important to present the
material in a way that is meaningful to students. By relating important
material to something already meaningful or relevant to the students,
they are more likely to comprehend and retain the material (Davis,
1993). Applying difficult accounting material to simple and familiar
games gives the students this type of learning opportunity.
Effective course learning objectives, which involve complex
cognitive learning skills, require teaching methods that promote active
learning on the part of the student (Bonner, 1999). Often there is
rarely class time to apply the material being taught other than doing
homework and ultimately responding on exams. Playing the games gives the
instructor an opportunity to address student questions that arise during
the course of answering a game question. In the process of playing these
games, opportunities arise to help with individual problems. Addressing
a small dilemma of one student may prove to be even more help to others
in the group. These games give students individual opportunity to
comprehend, through a different medium, the information learned in the
classroom or read from a textbook. At the same time, it can make
learning more interesting and fun.
Beets, S. D. & P. G. Lobingier. (2001). Pedagogical techniques:
Student performance and preferences. Journal of Education for Business,
Bonner, S. E. (1999). Choosing teaching methods based on learning
objectives: An integrative framework. Issues in Accounting Education,
Case, J. & K. Carney. (1996, February). Fun ways to learn about
P&L. HR Magazine, 80-83.
Davis, B. G. (1993). Tools for teaching. San Francisco, CA:
Harris, K. (2000). What works at work: Six lessons for the
classroom. Review of Agricultural Economics, 22(1), 228-236.
Hilton, R. W. (1999). Managerial Accounting (Fourth Edition).
Boston, MA: Irwin/McGraw-Hill.
Kimmel, P. D., J. J. Weygandt & D. E. Kieso. (2000). Financial
Accounting: Tools for business decision making (Second Edition). New
York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Knowles, M. (1988). Adult education. In G.Dixon, (Ed.), What Works
at Work (pp.102-11). Minneapolis: Lakewood Books.
University of Missouri Kansas City's Center for Supplemental
Instruction homepage. Retrieved August 1, 2002, from
Kimber Rhodes, Stephen F. Austin State University
Aileen Smith, Stephen F. Austin State University
Table 1--Financial Statement Bingo Card Example
FINANCIAL STATEMENT BINGO
Expense Revenue Long Term Liability
Revenue Property, Plant & Current Asset
Expense Full Disclosure [??]
Stockholder Equity Revenue Going Concern
Expense Current Asset Current Asset
Expense Intangible Asset Current Liability
Revenue Current Liability Economic Entity
Expense Current Asset Property, Plant &
Stockholder Equity Current Liability Intangible Asset
Expense Revenue Cost Principle
Table 1 Caller Card Examples
Term on Bingo Card: Current Asset
Term on Bingo Card: Stockholder Equity
Term on Bingo Card: Revenue
Caller Card would read: Cash
Caller Card would read: Common Stock
Caller Card would read: Ticket Sales
Table 2--Conceptual Statement Bingo Card Example
CONCEPTUAL STATEMENT BINGO
Relevance Reliability Comparability
Neutral Conservatism Material
Verifiable Feedback Value [??]
Full Disclosure Economic Entity Relevance
Material Primary Qualitative Consistent
Relevance Consistent Timely
Neutral Predictive Value Faithful Representation
Verifiable Going Concern Time Period
Full Disclosure Cost Principle Reliability
Material Secondary Qualitative Comparability
Table 2 Caller Card Examples
Term on Bingo Card: Relevance Caller Card would read:
Ability of information to influence
Term on Bingo Card: Conservatism Caller Card would read: When
preparing financial statements,
choose the method least likely to
overstate assets or income.
Term on Bingo Card: Comparability Caller Card would read: Financial
statements ability to be examined
across two or more companies.
Table 3--Managerial Accounting Bingo Card Example
MANAGERIAL ACCOUNTING BINGO
Opportunity Cost Cost Cost Driver
Inventoriable Cost Period Cost Prime Cost
Variable Cost Indirect Cost [??]
Raw Materials Expense Finished Goods
Indirect Material Marginal Cost Manufacturing Overhead
Opportunity Cost Direct Cost Direct Material
Inventoriable Cost Product Cost Fixed Cost
Variable Cost Sunk Cost Work In Process
Raw Materials Direct Labor Cost Indirect Labor Cost
Indirect Material Conversion Cost Controllable Cost
Table 3 Caller Card Examples
Term on Bingo Card: Fixed Cost
Caller Card would read: A cost that does not change in total as
Term on Bingo Card: Work In Process
Caller Card would read: Partially complete products that are not yet
ready for sale.
Term on Bingo Card: Indirect Cost
Caller Card would read: A cost that cannot be traced to a particular
Table 4--Sample "What's The Adjusting Entry?" Game Board
WHAT'S THE ADJUSTING ENTRY?
Sample Transactions from "What's the Adjusting Entry?"
The Supplies account for AG Corp. shows a balance of $1,500,
but a physical count shows only $300 of supplies.
On June 1, AG received $1,200 from Jones Company who is renting a
building from the company for 6 months. AG credited Unearned Rent
Revenue. Make the entry for June 30.
"AG's accountant discovered that AG had performed services for a
client totaling $900, but has not yet billed the client or
recorded the transaction.