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University of Michigan

Model Thinking

University of Michigan via Coursera


We live in a complex world with diverse people, firms, and governments whose behaviors aggregate to produce novel, unexpected phenomena. We see political uprisings, market crashes, and a never ending array of social trends. How do we make sense of it? Models. Evidence shows that people who think with models consistently outperform those who don't. And, moreover people who think with lots of models outperform people who use only one. Why do models make us better thinkers? Models help us to better organize information - to make sense of that fire hose or hairball of data (choose your metaphor) available on the Internet. Models improve our abilities to make accurate forecasts. They help us make better decisions and adopt more effective strategies. They even can improve our ability to design institutions and procedures. In this class, I present a starter kit of models: I start with models of tipping points. I move on to cover models explain the wisdom of crowds, models that show why some countries are rich and some are poor, and models that help unpack the strategic decisions of firm and politicians.

The models covered in this class provide a foundation for future social science classes, whether they be in economics, political science, business, or sociology. Mastering this material will give you a huge leg up in advanced courses. They also help you in life. Here's how the course will work. For each model, I present a short, easily digestible overview lecture. Then, I'll dig deeper. I'll go into the technical details of the model. Those technical lectures won't require calculus but be prepared for some algebra. For all the lectures, I'll offer some questions and we'll have quizzes and even a final exam. If you decide to do the deep dive, and take all the quizzes and the exam, you'll receive a Course Certificate. If you just decide to follow along for the introductory lectures to gain some exposure that's fine too. It's all free. And it's all here to help make you a better thinker!

Taught by

Scott E. Page


4.7 rating, based on 66 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Model Thinking

  • Charlie Chung completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This was a great interdisciplinary course, relevant for all thinking people. I have a background in economics and social science (two major applications of model thinking) and thus I was familiar with some of these concepts (e.g. prisoner's dilemma1
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    "Model Thinking" was the first, and still one of the very best, courses I've taken via

    I'm an engineer with a strong background in quantitative analysis. I've taught Operations Research at the MBA level, and so was skeptical that I would learn anything new or significant from this class. I was wrong. Almost every week yielded a new revelation. It was eye-opening. Thanks to Professor Page I now have a whole new stack of analytical tools in my toolkit. I highly recommend this class, regardless of what you think you know or don't know about modeling social, business, or physical systems.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Wonderful material, a rare opportunity to get a thorough overview of the topic.

    It is not an easy topic, but Pr Page is a talented enough teacher to make it affordable in an enjoyable manner.

    You can breeze through this course in a couple of hours, but the topic, in my opinion, requires a lot more work than advertise to really benefit from the learning.

    A great course, a great opportunity that you do not want to miss to have a wide and thorough overview of most of the model families currently in use by economists, physicists, anthropologists, sociologists, and your beloved government in the control of the masses.

    There is no other place to find all this information in gathered one source.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I'm currently taking this class and really enjoying it. It wasn't what I expected at all -- I thought it would be more based on physical science and math rather than social sciences -- but that is my fault for not reading the explanatory materials more carefully. Nevertheless, I have to say I have had some real insights from the lectures. I enjoy how ideas from many different fields are stitched together.

    Dr. Page presents with clarity and a high energy level. The materials a high qualtiy. Really enjoying this.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This was my first MOOC and it hooked me in a big way. Professor Page keeps it fresh, interesting, and challanging throught the course. I found out that I was using models for most of my life without knowing it. He absolutly made me better at it (the more models the better, I got it Professor).

    I never anticipated that the experience would be so rewarding.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    This was a great course and I learned a great deal out of it. I would recommend it to others interested in learning a wide range of models that they can apply to a ton of thought experiments or real-life situations.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A broad introduction to a diverse collection of useful models for thinking about the world. You will need a bit of algebra, but the course is not math-intensive. Great lectures. Over and over, I found myself saying "That's fascinating!" One of my favorites
  • Peter H

    Peter H completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Very good course on model thinking. The instructor breaks down the content to an easily understandable level. Highly recommended for people working with data to at least know some of the heuristics and models that are taught in this class.
  • Astrid

    Astrid completed this course, spending 8 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Great introduction to the world of scientific modelling without ever becoming boring. Great for all subjects. Gifted lecturer, great mix of tools (videos, experiments, examples). One of lasting impact.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I took the class last year. It's one of the best courses that I have done so far. Prof. Scott covers political, economical, business , and many other models. It's amazing how different fields are connected.
  • Sardar Hussain Salarzai

    Sardar Hussain Salarzai completed this course, spending 30 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    i learn more about the systematic thinking after completing this course. and would be able in future to understand any matter in model thinking.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Best MOOC I've completed out of 35

    Definitely changed my way of viewing the world
  • Rui Rodrigues

    Rui Rodrigues is taking this course right now, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Very interesting but in my case just didn't had much time to do it. But i recommended anyway. I will try again in a further session.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Very well taught by an enthusiastic and entertaining teacher. I learned a lot and would be excited about any available follow up.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    high quality material with real life application.

    Dr Page presentation is highly enjoyable.

    recommended for all levels.
  • Santosh Goteti

    Santosh Goteti completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    A very nice beginner level course with a lot of useful concepts which have a very wide range of applications.
  • Bart

    Bart completed this course.

    The way the course touches each subject lightly is fine for me. The wide variety of models described, the examples given and the way the theory is explained is well executed. All in all the subject matter is quite easy.

    What I don't like is that sometimes the speed is brought to a halt because long lists of examples or numbers are summed up from the sheets that do not really help understanding the subject. This probably is just a personal annoyance.

    The quizzes seem to test if I can remember what the teacher said, instead of making me think and apply the knowledge I just acquired.

    Very easy.
  • Enzo Altamiranda

    Enzo Altamiranda completed this course.

    Great course. It opened my mind to many new ideas that I didn't knew existed. The topics are so varied that unfortunately the contents don't have much depth, but Dr. Page teaches you just enough for you to start learning on your own about whatever topic picked your interest. Highly recommended!
  • John OConnor

    John OConnor completed this course.

    Models rule the world. We need models to make sense of the ocean of data that is being produced. This is a very gentle and interesting introduction to a very important topic.
  • Eric Gehlhaar

    Eric Gehlhaar completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.

    The professor has a distinctive communication style combining approachability with rigour. It sneaks in some maths. Good access given to supplementary research papers

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