Every four years, we have an amazing real-world opportunity to think about practical applications of statistics and data analysis: the Presidential election. Over the years, we have tried different ways to incorporate the election theme into our math classes. Last spring, Math 4 students looked at Electoral College reform options as part of their data and statistics unit. We analyzed the inequalities within the Electoral College and investigated some potential reforms. As our national elections have come increasingly to depend on a few “swing states,” it’s also been a useful way of teaching students about current events through the lens of data analysis.
Math Content: ratios, one-variable statistics.
· Students will understand how the rules of our Electoral College mean that there are differences in how much weight an individual’s vote has in a national election.
· Students will investigate alternatives to the Electoral College and analyze the pros and cons of different proposals.
Summary of Handouts
· Electoral College Worksheet. This hand-out steered our class experience through an introductory Do Now, class activities and extension homework assignments.
· Electoral College Dataset. This is the list of numbers that was given to each student as we analyzed the overall U.S. data. It also contains a solution for different options in the homework assignment.
· Articles: this is a great opportunity to include current articles or news clips that discuss the current election.
Logistics/ Instructional Time:
· Day 1 (85 minutes). Begin with a true/false quiz as the Do Now. Continue class with a discussion about what students know and want to know about the Electoral College. Some students enjoyed an analogy comparing scoring runs in baseball but losing the World Series. Give students a good chunk of class time to crunch the numbers and look for patterns within the data set.
Student Preparation: Before these lessons, students should have a familiarity with finding ratios and finding averages. This also assumes a good understanding of current events. No other prerequisite skills are necessary.
Next Steps/ Extensions:
· Depending on the class time, it might be good to ask students to choose a reform option use data to support their choice.
· Some years we have asked students to develop a campaigning plan, based on where polls have been the closest and where the Electoral votes are most important.
· Some years, we have asked students to focus in on one particular state and analyze current polls to make a prediction. Websites like 270towin.com or fivethirtyeight.com are great resources for these types of activities.