Begin the lesson by displaying the Who Won This Election?
overhead. 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 overhead data is from a previous election. Some
students may recognize it as the 2000 presidential election between Al
Gore and George W. Bush.
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 elections. Gray represents Democrats
and white represents Republicans. 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 3/4 of the states (not 3/4
of the population). Many citizens have strong feelings on this topic.
Some are highly critical of the electoral college process 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 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 should collect
activity sheets from each student to gauge individual understanding.
One approach is to organize students into groups of three with the
- Researcher: looks up the electoral votes for the state and inputs data into the Electoral College Calculator
- 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 question 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 difficult and open-ended. Use the third problem to
differentiate and challenge gifted students in a mixed ability class.
Alternatively, in a higher ability class, 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 will probably require a second class period.
Students should use the Electoral College Calculator
to experiment with different data scenarios. This activity can also be
done by organizing data in a spreadsheet, or by using a calculator if
computers with an Internet connection are not readily available.
Students should use the table created in Why California? as a resource.
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. You could also have students research data on
registered voters, such as the information on Voter and Registration Data on the U.S. Census Bureau website.
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 problems 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.