This was a pretty raucous session. I didn't really anticipate how much the kids in the Math club would be invested in the election. I was peppered with requests for updates on the results during which I mostly satisfied via my phone. "Nothing has changed in the last 5 minutes ...." I even had a few try to use the computers in the room to go to election sites (which has never happened before). The moral of this story is mostly if for some reason four years from now you're running a Math Club on a presidential election night, be prepared.

In fact, based on a conversation with my friend Dan I had already scoured the web for election math based activities and had ended up with the following one from NCTM:

http://illuminations.nctm.org/Lesson.aspx?id=2539

My plan was to go through the communal starter, and then run the worksheets in groups and reassemble back together to discuss after 5-10 minutes.

I then committed an error in judgement that hopefully didn't bother anyone. Given the excitement in the room and some requests from the kids rather than doing a synthetic election tally I decided to do a full blown mock election and to tally the results on the board for analysis. Without thinking about it I asked the kids to just add their own selections to the tallies on the board. It wasn't until 5 minutes later I thought about it and realized that I should have maintained secret ballots for this. With any luck, this wasn't significant but I inadvertently violated a core principle with respect to politics. If I'm ever in this situation again I will be more mindful.

This mistake weighed on me the rest of the session along with the need to keep everyone focused on the math rather than the actual election. So overall I'm looking forward to a more normal next week.

The worksheets were pretty good but it took a lot of effort on my part with each table to keep everyone one track. I'm probably also going to go over our standards of behavior again as a group next week.

In case you ever want to do more on elections, this post from Keith Devlin Election Math or the section in Jordan Ellenberg's book How Not to Be Wrong have some important, and accessible, points.

ReplyDeleteThe key point is that, when voters are choosing from more than 2 options and there are reasonable splits in the vote, there is no mathematically perfect way to determine the winner. Left as an exercise for the reader how to proceed when this is the case...

The NCTM packet was actually good at driving home that point. Most of my time in recap and at each table was spent talking about how the different voting methods produced different outcomes.

Delete