Justification for Teaching

Freakonomics is a go-to pick for any teacher looking to satisfy a nonfiction reading requirement with an interesting text that students will truly enjoy. Students will delight in reading about the mysterious, multifaceted topics in this text, and they'll especially like the way authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner make them easier to understand and more relatable to their world.

Freakonomics is perfect for getting students to use critical-thinking skills to examine the evidence for and against an idea or theory — an essential real-world skill, and one they'll need to be prepared for a college or career setting.


Freakonomics is an award-winning nonfiction text that explores economics in a new and exciting way. Economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner delve into issues such as crime, drugs, sports, and laws and explain them with evidence and a humorous tone.

The authors examine these complex topics from different angles in order to expand their readers' understanding of these subjects as well as the theories behind the study of economics in general.

Key Literary Elements & Techniques

  • Point of View
  • Illustrations and Data
  • Intricate Research
  • Applying Economics to Understandable Situations
  • Moral Views vs. Scientific Views

Themes and Motifs

  • Incentives and motives — The book repeatedly shows how incentives affect thoughts and actions, especially economically.
  • Unexamined conventional wisdom — Although the authors do not directly express that all conventional ways of thinking are wrong, they convey through data and examples that conventional insight is often incorrect or not thoroughly questioned.
  • Intense effects from small causes — Steven and Stephen show that one must investigate into the intricacies of events in order to find real causes of effects. These causes are not always obvious or grand.

Related Works

Themes of Incentives

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

The Know-It-All, by A.J. Jacobs

The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch


Themes of unexamined conventional wisdom

Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

1984, by George Orwell

The Age of Missing Information, by Bill McKibben

The Cuckoo's Egg, by Clifford Stoll


Themes of intense effects from small causes

The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore

Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom

IraqiGirl, Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq, by IraqiGirl

Key Facts

  • Recommended Grade Band: 9 – 12
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Length: 336 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 1240L


A documentary about the book, also titled Freakonomics, was created in 2010.

Your Students will love:

  • The humorous tone Levitt and Dubner employ throughout
  • The way Levitt and Dubner explain difficult topics in easier terms

Students may have problems with:

  • Some of the more controversial topics in the book, such as abortion and drug dealing
  • Examining the data, tables, and numbers in the book, which may prove challenging (or boring) for some students

Other Prestwick House Teacher's Guides to Literature

See all our Teacher's Guides to Literature here.