It was on the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast that I heard the most appropriate, concise, and interesting description of the differences between Facebook and Twitter. It was something like this:

Facebook is like a cocktail party, where everyone dresses up, puts on their best outfit, monitors their speech, are particular about who they are seen with, and carefully behaves themselves. Twitter is like a bar where you walk in an everyone is shouting and having interesting conversations about anything.

I think that description is spot on, and part of the reason why I prefer Twitter over Facebook. There are no obligations to be friends with classmates or people you know. In fact, I probably only know personally about 3% of the people I follow on Twitter. Nevertheless, I find it to be a much more interesting place and a much more productive place than Facebook (but then, of course I would, I’m a 26-34 year old male, see below). Want to ask a question about education and the Wii? Just ask the question and add the hashtag #edchat and within seconds you’ll have a response.

But this post isn’t a screed about the FB vs. Twitter wars. It’s about math.


This infographic from

Guided Questions

  • What surprised you about this data?
  • Mining the data a little:
    • Note that Twitter usage is at a low in High School, but then spikes in college. What does that imply?
    • Note that Twitter has a much greater percentage of users updating their status every day, but Facebook has a higher percentage of users who log in everyday. Are we a nation of voyeurs?
    • Note that Twitter has a higher percentage of users logging in via mobile device. Does that mean anything?
  • What do the data suggest for advertising firms?

Suggested Activities

  • Students could assess the data (being careful about the raw numbers, which greatly swings the advantage to Facebook) and give a presentation on target markets. For instance, split the class up into Facebook groups and Twitter groups. Tell them they have 45 minutes to come up with three products to advertise on FB or Twitter and why.
  • I see a Venn Diagram or two fitting in here.
  • Correlation and regression. Person A is 34, male, and earns $45,000 a year. Is Person A more likely to have a Facebook account, Twitter account, or both?

All math teachers have either seen and/or administered some sort of “Which cell phone plan should you choose?” problem. Well, this is a bit more interesting to me: which social networking site should you use or advertise on. It’s a bit more open ended a question, and probably more applicable to the kind of questions students will face at the next level.

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