Michelle Pho, a sophomore in business administration, was in her financial accounting class at 8 a.m. on a recent Tuesday, trying to decide whether to buy Pennsylvania Railroad.
A few desks away, Wayne LaPlante, a sophomore major, entered in his general journal the $80 rental income he had collected for New York Avenue.
Throughout the Pulichino Tong Business Center classroom, small groups of students rolled dice and moved silver cylinders and racing cars on game boards while playing “Monopoly Accounting,” an activity created by a faculty member Rashida Motiwalla to help students in the introductory course better understand the fundamentals of the accounting profession.
“Accounting courses tend to be very factual – there’s not a lot of room to let your imagination or creativity run wild,” says Motiwalla, who has taught at the Manning School of Business for more than a decade.
By streamlining the classic Monopoly board game and turning every move into an accounting transaction, Motiwalla hopes to engage students by connecting concepts they learn in class to business situations they might encounter in the real world.
“Monopoly Accounting” is only one step of it accounting is taking to stimulate student interest in an area that is experiencing a nationwide decline in enrollment.
according to a Report 2021 According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the number of US students completing a bachelor’s degree in accounting gradually decreased from 56,715 in 2016 to 52,481 in 2020. While the pandemic and a demographic decline in the number of college-age students are factors, the report says business schools need to do more to attract and retain students.
At the Manning School, the accounting department does this on several fronts, according to the chair and Prof. Chondkar Karim. Among them: the inclusion of data analytics in the curriculum, the reorientation of the content of advanced courses and the inclusion of three new options in the Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) program – Business Analytics, International Business and Corporate Accounting Leadership
The department has also hosted notable guest speakers such as Barry Melancon, President and CEO of the AICPA, and Christine Botosan, member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, and launched a series of industry speakers with alumni such as Darlene Steffen ’76, a certified financial planner, and John Geraci ’97, Managing Partner at the accounting firm LGA.
“These initiatives provide students with a clear understanding of the accounting profession, the audit mandate, accounting technology and disclosure issues,” says Karim.
associate prof. Karen Lin, meanwhile, was recently appointed director of undergraduate student success. In October, she organized an appreciation luncheon 11 accounting students who have received scholarships in the past year. She also accompanied a dozen accounting and finance students to the Institute of Management Accounts’ annual student leadership conference in Pittsburgh this fall.
Lin says the trip gave her a better idea of ”how to improve students’ experiential learning.”
Monopoly Accounting isn’t the first time the faculty has incorporated games into the classroom. In the past year, Assoc. teaching prof. Laura Christianson created a Danger! game to help their financial accounting students study for their final exams – an idea they borrowed from Assoc. prof. Stefanie Tate.
“They did really well in the finale,” says Christianson, who plans to use the game again this semester with her three-section course. “Students who hadn’t spoken to each other all semester got together in teams. They were super competitive.”
In Motiwalla’s Financial Accounting class this fall, students had to convert their in-game general journal sheets into T-accounts (a method of organizing and summarizing transactions in a ledger) as homework. Then they drew up a balance sheet and an income statement.
“Accounting is so important even if you don’t become an accounting major,” says Motiwalla, tax partner at LGA. “If you run a business, you need to be able to read financial statements. If you’re managing your own finances, you need to be able to budget.”
Motiwalla followed “Monopoly Accounting” with a business model simulation lasting several weeks. Students sold school supplies such as notebooks and pens at the Manning School and then worked in inventory management, cash management, accounts payable or accounts receivable teams. She plans to introduce other games in future courses and share the course content with other accounting faculties.
After testing Monopoly Accounting, almost all of Motiwalla’s students agreed that the class time was a good investment.
Junior marketing student Lessly Cabrera hadn’t played Monopoly since she was a child. She found it to be “an engaging but productive break from the traditional lecture and assignment approach”—and one that helped solidify concepts.
“For example, I thought of someone paying me rent and I automatically thought the rental income would go up,” says the Brockton, Massachusetts native. “But playing the game and exchanging the wrong money reminded me that I’m debiting the cash and crediting that rental income.”
Like several of his classmates, second-year finance student Harrison Regan admits he was “a little confused at first” about the activity.
“I didn’t really know how to apply bookkeeping to Monopoly, but it makes sense now,” says the Chelmsford, Massachusetts native, who won his group’s game with $1,030 in toy bills. “I wish the classes were longer so my group and I could have played longer.”