Begin the lesson by displaying the Who Won This Election? Graphic. Ask students to examine the numbers carefully. Students
should notice that the "gray" candidate received more of the popular
vote, yet the "white" candidate received more of the electoral vote. If
students notice that the number of electoral votes is different from
those in Why California?, explain that the Why California? data is
current and the data in the graphic is from a previous election.
Engage students in a class discussion about whether or not they
feel the results of the election are "fair." Many students will have
their own opinions, but try not to influence students with your own
opinion. You may wish to share with them that these are real election
results from the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. Gray represents Gore
and white represents Bush. See the Extensions section below for possible follow-up questions.
You may also choose to bring in other political information and
data. For example, since the electoral college is part of our
Constitution, any proposal to change the electoral college process would
need the support of of the states (not
of the population). Many citizens have strong feelings on this topic.
Some are highly critical of the Electoral College for the
reason just stated, while others believe we should continue with the
Electoral College since it benefits the least populous states.
Tell students that their goal is to investigate situations in
which the Electoral College system creates unusual election results. This is a
good activity for students to work on in groups because discussions
arise naturally from the investigation. However, you may wish to collect
activity sheets from each student to assess individual understanding.
One approach is to organize students into groups of three with the
- Researcher: looks up the electoral votes for each state
- Recorder: records the data on the activity sheet and leads the group in arranging and displaying results
- Executive: makes the ultimate decisions about what to do and keeps the group on task
Display and discuss the rubric found with the How Could That Happen? Answer Key before work begins. Allow students to ask questions to ensure
they understand how they will be assessed on the activity.
Distribute the How Could That Happen? Activity Sheets. There are three problems included to choose from. The
first two problems, How Could I Win? and How Could I Lose?, are nearly
equivalent in difficulty. The third problem, How Could I Win and Lose?,
is more challenging and open-ended, giving you several options for differentiation among individuals and groups.
Alternatively, you could assign How Could I
Win? or How Could I Lose? to groups as a beginning activity and use How
Could I Win and Lose? as the main challenge of the lesson. Note that
this may require a second class period.
Search for the Electoral College through the National Archives And Records Administration to gather the most current electoral vote counts as well as the most up-to-date teacher resources. The activity described in this lesson can be
done with an online tool, by organizing data in a spreadsheet, or by using a calculator.
Students can use the table created in Why California? as a resource as well.
If you choose to go directly to this lesson without completing
Lesson 1, you will need to provide students with the table from the Why California? Answer Key.
There are several ways to address the question in How Could I
Win and Lose? One possibility is to let students make assumptions to
simplify the problem. Since Why California? uses population data and
the solution to the problem requires data on registered voters, allow
students to assume the same portion of the population in each state is
registered to vote, which will allow them to use the available
population data. The actual percentages vary between states, and fall
within the range of about 50% to 80% of a state's population being
registered to vote. The U.S. Census Bureau offers extensive information about the demographics of the electorate, including the number of registered voters in each state.
Leave time toward the end of class to draw students back to a
class discussion and review of the rubric requirements. Emphasize that
a level 5 answer will include all elements outlined on the activity
sheet, and remind students to focus on developing a mathematically
sound explanation despite the strong political content of the activity.
Display the shaded maps from How Could I Win? together. Then
display the maps from How Could I Lose? together, and finally, display
the maps from How Could I Win and Lose? together. Discuss the
similarities as each set of maps is put up. Ask students questions to
encourage a discussion of these similarities. For example:
- What state is always shaded for How Could I Win?
- What other states should be on the list for How Could I Win? Why?
- Which states are necessary on the list for How Could I Lose?
- Which of the three tasks requires the most states to be shaded in?
- What strategies did you use to help you find the solution to How Could I Win and Lose?
If time permits, allow students to volunteer to share some of the other results and discoveries they made during the activity.