26 October, 2012
Volume 17 No. 43
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Math Teaching Resources for Election Day






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Math Teaching Resources for Election Day

Election Day in the U.S. this year falls on Tuesday, 6 November — and presents many opportunities for teaching math.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) series of "Math Here and Now" articles includes one entitled "Elections in the United States." It provides an overview of plurality voting, alternative methods, and — under "The Math" — Arrow's Paradox, named after the Nobel prize-winning economist who demonstrated the unfairness inherent in any system of voting:


PoW taking place: math problem-solving moment of the week

"Juan V. from Eastside College Preparatory took Lauren's method a step further, and did something I sure didn't think of (and neither did anyone else, as far as I could see). I thought this was pretty slick! It sure makes the problem seem like a lot less work."
- Annie, commenting on the Geometry PoW's latest solution

How Close Were U.S. Presidential Elections?


During his graduate studies in statistics, Mike Sheppard sifted through every U.S. Presidential election in the nation's history to answer this question: "What is the smallest number of total votes that need to be switched from one candidate to another, and from which states, to affect the outcome of the election?" His research turned up a treasure trove of voting data.

PoW taking place: math problem-solving moment of the week

"Artemisia D. from Lebanon Middle School used a unique method. It's really cool when you can use what you understand about a math idea to invent your own method for finding the answer. Qing H. from High Peaks Elementary had a neat kind of estimation in the Extra portion."
- Max, commenting on Pre-Algebra PoW's latest solution

The Electoral Map


The New York Times offers an interactive Electoral Map that assesses how states may vote for the presidency, based on polling, previous election results, and state political geography. It also lets you play out your own voting scenarios with the click of a mouse.

Now taking place: math education conversation of the day

"I taught Applied Math 1, Sequential Course I and Sequential Course II under this semester block system. One big difference is I had 90 minute blocks PLUS I met with each class for an additional 45 minutes 2 times in a 6 day cycle. It was really a great system in that there was plenty of time to do in depth investigations of topics as well as reteaching when necessary. The students did really really well on the exams. It takes a ton of planning to do a double period. You can't just lecture for 2 periods straight... Another advantage was only having 45-50 students at a time. Much more time to focus on each student, call parents, etc. I'm not sure what schools could afford to run such a system anymore:("
- Liz, posted to the secondary (grades 9-12) discussion group of the Association of Math Teachers of New York State

List of Narrow Elections


Wikipedia maintains a sortable list of close election results at national and state level. To see the impact that every single vote has, click the column headers to re-sort by vote margin, percentage margin, or total votes cast.


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