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Game On: Business Students Apply Fundamentals in ‘Monopoly Accounting’

Accounting Faculty Find Creative Ways to Attract Students to the Field

A young woman reaches for dice on a Monopoly board while looking at a player to her left Photo by Ed Brennen
Students in adjunct faculty member Rashida Motiwalla's Financial Accounting course play a game of "Monopoly Accounting" earlier this semester.

11/17/2022
By Ed Brennen

Sophomore business major Michelle Pho was in her 8 a.m. Financial Accounting course on a recent Tuesday, trying to decide if she should buy Pennsylvania Railroad.

A few desks over, sophomore business major Wayne LaPlante was entering the $80 in rent revenue he had collected for New York Avenue into his general journal.

All around the Pulichino Tong Business Center classroom, small groups of students rolled dice and moved silver top hats and race cars around game boards while playing “Monopoly Accounting,” an activity created by adjunct faculty member Rashida Motiwalla to help students in the introductory-level course better understand the fundamentals of the accounting profession.

“Accounting lectures tend to be more matter-of-fact — there is not much room for using one's imagination or creativity,” says Motiwalla, who has taught in the Manning School of Business for more than a decade. 

By tweaking the classic Monopoly board game and converting each move to an accounting transaction, Motiwalla hopes to engage students by having them connect concepts they’re learning in class to business situations they might encounter in the real world.
A woman in glasses talks to students who are seated in a class Photo by Ed Brennen
Adjunct faculty member Rashida Motiwalla answers a student's question during her class' trial run of "Monopoly Accounting."

“Monopoly Accounting” is just one step the Accounting Department is taking to spark students’ interest in a field that is experiencing a nationwide decline in enrollment. 

According to a 2021 report by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the number of U.S. students completing bachelor's degrees in accounting gradually declined from 56,715 in 2016 to 52,481 in 2020. While the pandemic and a demographic drop in the number of college-age students are factors, the report stated that business schools need to do more to attract and retain students.

At the Manning School, accounting faculty are doing that on several fronts, according to Department Chair and Prof. Khondkar Karim. Among them: incorporating data analytics into the curriculum, realigning the content of intermediate courses and adding three new options to 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, a member of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, and created an industry speaker series featuring alumni such as Darlene Steffen ’76, a certified financial planner, and John Geraci ’97, managing partner at accounting firm LGA. 
 
Two men in suits and glasses shake hands while posing for a photo Photo by Ed Brennen
Accounting Department Chair and Prof. Khondkar Karim, left, welcomed Barry Melancon, president and CEO of the AICPA, to University Crossing in 2019.

“These initiatives give students a clear understanding of the accounting profession, audit engagement, technology in accounting and disclosure issues,” Karim says.

Assoc. Prof. Karen Lin, meanwhile, was recently named the department’s director of undergraduate student success. In October, she organized a luncheon to recognize 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 vision of “how to enhance students’ experiential learning.”
 
Gamifying Accounting

“Monopoly Accounting” isn’t the first time that faculty have incorporated game play in the classroom.  Last year, Assoc. Teaching Prof. Laura Christianson created a “Jeopardy!” game to help students in her Financial Accounting course study for the final exam — an idea she borrowed from Assoc. Prof. Stefanie Tate.

“They did really well on the final,” says Christianson, who plans to use the game again with her three sections of the course this semester. “Students who hadn’t talked to each other the whole semester got together in teams. They were super-competitive.”
A close up photo of a man counting Monopoly money with a calculator on a table in front of him Photo by Ed Brennen
Students had to enter each Monopoly move into a general journal, which they later converted to a balance sheet and income statement.

In Motiwalla’s Financial Accounting course this fall, students had to convert their general journal sheets from the game into T accounts (a method of organizing and summarizing transactions in a general ledger) for homework. Then they created a balance sheet and income statement.

“Accounting is so important, even if you’re not going to be an accounting major,” says Motiwalla, a tax partner at LGA. “If you are running a business, you need to be able to read a financial statement. If you’re managing your own finances, you need to be able to budget.”

Motiwalla followed up “Monopoly Accounting” with a business model simulation that spanned several weeks. Students sold school supplies like notebooks and pens at the Manning School and then worked on inventory management, cash management, payables or receivables teams. She plans to introduce other games in future classes and share the course content with other accounting faculty. 

After the trial run of “Monopoly Accounting,” nearly all of Motiwalla’s students agreed that it was class time well-spent.
A young man moves a piece on a Monopoly board while another player in a pink sweatshirt looks on Photo by Ed Brennen
Students say the "Monopoly Accounting" game was a nice break from traditional lectures.

Junior marketing student Lessly Cabrera hadn’t played Monopoly since she was little. She found it to be an “engaging yet productive break from the traditional lecture and assignment approach” — and one that helped solidify concepts.

“For example, I thought about someone paying me rent and automatically thinking rent revenue went up,” the Brockton, Massachusetts, native says. “But playing the game and exchanging the fake money reminded me I’m debiting the cash and crediting that rent revenue.”

Like several of his classmates, sophomore finance student Harrison Regan admits he was “a little confused at first” about the activity.

“I didn’t really know how you can apply accounting to Monopoly, but it makes sense now,” says the native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, who won his group’s game with $1,030 in toy bills. “I wish the class was longer so my group and I could have played longer.”