A couple years ago I shared a stats-ish problem idea regarding the oh-so-fun 2000 presidential election. The problem was cribbed from a graduate level stats textbook but the data are straightforward enough for a – let’s say – 9th grader to grasp. What made me want to revisit the task is some fun data tools that Tuvalabs recently released. Tuvalabs, whom I’ve raved about in other forums, now allows teachers to upload their own data so that kids can play with it in a non-Excel format.

So the 2000 election. Yeah that was fun. Anyway, I uploaded the data I had from the original task and went to town. The data show the county-by-county votes for George W. Bush and for Pat Buchannan. You’ll recall that Palm Beach voters complained about the confusing butterfly ballot. Some voters claimed they intended to vote for Al Gore but accidentally punched the chad for far-right candidate Pat Buchanan.

I reworked the original task in my previous post, and I’ll rework it again so here, in proper entry event form.

So play around with the data yourself. How would you present the task as a teacher? How would you present the analysis as a student? And what workshops and scaffolding would you offer in between?

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Hey Geoff! I work as a math coach in Los Angeles and use your resources and ideas a lot in PD and in one-on-one coaching/collaborating sessions. Thanks for being such an awesome resource for teachers who continue to find two ways to engage students!

My two cents on this topic come from Charles Seife’s book called “Proofiness”. It’s an amazing read and I used it as a part of interdisciplinary unit with seniors that focused on the concepts of “power” and “media/data literacy”. Apparently, mathematicians were arguing that there’s a pretty well-defined (and unavoidable) margin of error when counting anything (like votes). I forget what the margin of error is now, but the Florida election was well within that range. (As was the Frankton/Coleman race in MN a few years later.)

In a mathematical sense, these elections were ties and that the constitution in each state has provisions for ties. (In Florida, it’s a coin flip!). But because of the general lack of mathematical literacy in the general public (and the media and politicians…), we believe that mathematics (as applied to counting) will faithfully yield an exact true value and that a tie can only happen if the numbers are identical.

There was a lot of rich conversation about using percents to determine “ties” for various sample sizes. And amazing conversations about what do we mean by equal? And how is equality constrained by limitations in how we measure things? How does this relate to the Census and districting? (The Census is not conducted by sampling sadly….which is proven to be more accurate than trying to count every single head.) And why should this make us feel a little uneasy as a democracy?

Anyway, there’s another layer or “middle” through some of these problems about voting and civics. Unfortunately, this doesn’t align with any CCSS standards.

One of these days, I’m going to write a book/curriculum called “Mathiness” that explores all the cool and accessible math ideas out there that may not align to CCSS, but are important to democracy, critical numeracy, and individual autonomy.

One of these days…

Anyway, wanted to reach out and say thanks for doing great work! And to share a little mathgeekiness.

Chase