World Shipping Monopoly

The most time intensive application activity I have ever set up is World Shipping Monopoly, which says something because of how many breakouts I have created. The original activity was inspired by the Boxcars, a world trade/shipping simulation created in 1975 by Joan Steffy. The 7th grade geography teachers had used it for many years. The simulation worked for most of the students. However, each year a group of students just ended up copying numbers endlessly without understanding the purpose, and as the teacher in charge of After School Tutoring for years, I saw this side of the project. 

I wanted to design something that would give the students the same functional knowledge/application, but in a way that would be more meaningful. After finding a PDF template for creating your own version of Monopoly, I was inspired to make a world shipping board game version. It took MONTHS, but it was created and utilized last year. That worked for the first year, but I updated it this year using Canva – to design and print. The result is stunning. 

ChanceChance Cards are mini-opportunities to teach and apply the economic and globalization concepts of the unit. It also pulled in real world situations, like a trade war creating tariffs or a natural disaster closing a port. For the 2nd year, I am making more positive cards and reduced the cost of the negative ones. Some chance cards apply to the person on the Chance spot, but others are dependent on a color space. This year I am going to have a Chance Card of the Day; this will give me a chance to explain the geographic and economic background to the scenario, instead of just hoping they made the connections themselves. There will also be a Quizlet set to explain the major terms that apply throughout the game. 

Now the details – which I am recording as a reminder for myself for future years:

World Ship MonopolyBoard Layout 

  • Sorted countries by HDI 
  • Goes around the board from lowest ranked to highest ranked based on 2018 data
  • Occasionally moved them one or two spaces to keep geographically close places next to each other 
  • Added a non-capital city that will not have trade and the corners are oceans, except for the one corner that is a mandatory fuel stop
  • Still have Chance cards, which are my favorite part of the game


  • Reduced the number of available commodities at each location – but make sure they have at least one export and one import. 
  • Got rid of similar things – like computers, but kept smartphones
  • Kept items related to other chapters – like crude oil, sneakers, and textiles 
  • The commodity choices still demonstrates that more raw materials available in developing countries, and higher profit items come from the developed countries. 

Set Up 

  • Each student gets a board with 10 spots for commodities/shipping containers
  • Each student gets $2,500 to begin
  • Everyone starts on the fuel space 
  • Everyone rolls the dice. Whoever has the highest number goes first, then the players go in a clockwise order.


  • Roll a single dice.
  • They get one trip around the board without paying for fuel. Each additional trip, they must stop and pay for fuel at the labeled corner.
  • At each capital city, you are allowed one export and one import. 
  • Some spaces are just a city. If there is no import/export information listed, you may not trade.
  • Players may never have more than 10 commodities at once. 
  • If you run out of money, it is up to the global financier (Mrs. Whiston) to determine your fate
  • Students may use a calculator to help, but all transactions are done with paper money * and must be recorded on the Balance Sheet 

Different from Regular Monopoly

  • No one owes a property. Players buy/sell commodities instead. 
  • No Luxury Tax, but some tariffs incorporated into the Chance cards
  • Must stop to pay for fuel 
  • Do not collect $200 for passing Go
  • No jail 


The groups for this part of the unit were determined by a pre-test and teacher observations – both geography teacher and math teacher – since the traditional version is math intensive. The first few days last year I heard a lot of “this is the dumb group” and “why can’t we play the real way?” The comments completely changed by the end. They only complained if we were not playing the game. There was not a single comment in the last 2 weeks about being a stupid group. Instead there was almost pride when other envious students discovered we played Monopoly. When asked to reflect on what they thought I wanted them to learn, they were fairly accurate. It took countless hours to create, but I’m glad I did. I am excited to start this unit after break with a new group of students. 

About Lisa Butler

Middle school geography teacher, tech trainer, Flocabulary MC, Nearpod PioNear, and Edcamp Hershey Founder. I have embraced the power of purposeful technology and am creative with their application. If I am not doing something with ed or tech, I am probably reading children's books, baking with a toddler sidekick, running around, or dreaming of traveling.
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