How Do You Explain Game Theory to a Child?


Martha Robinson

Game theory is a fascinating subject that involves understanding how people make decisions in situations where their choices can affect others. It’s an important tool for economists, politicians, and business leaders alike, but explaining it to a child can be challenging.

What is game theory?

At its core, game theory is the study of decision-making in situations where the outcome depends on the choices of multiple individuals or groups. It’s called “game” theory because it often involves analyzing situations that resemble games or competitions.

For example: Imagine two kids playing a game of rock-paper-scissors. Each player has three options (rock, paper, or scissors), and the outcome depends on which option both players choose. This is a simple example of a situation that can be analyzed using game theory.

How does game theory work?

Game theory involves analyzing the options available to each player and predicting what they are likely to do based on their goals and assumptions about the other players’ goals.

For example: In rock-paper-scissors, each player wants to win, but they don’t know what the other player will choose. If Player A assumes that Player B will choose rock (which beats scissors), then Player A should choose paper (which beats rock). But if Player B assumes that Player A will choose paper, then Player B should choose scissors (which beats paper).

Why is game theory important?

Game theory can help us understand why people make certain decisions and predict how they will behave in certain situations. This information can be useful for making strategic decisions in business, politics, and other areas.

For example: If you’re negotiating with someone over a price, understanding their goals and assumptions can help you predict what price they’re likely to accept. Or if you’re designing a new product, understanding how customers will react to different features can help you make better decisions about what to include.


Game theory is a complex subject, but it can be broken down into simple concepts that even children can understand. By using examples like rock-paper-scissors, we can help kids see how the choices we make can affect the outcomes of different situations. By teaching kids about game theory, we can help them develop critical thinking skills that will serve them well in all areas of life.