Electoral College Game

I created a game for my math classes that centers on the Presidential election.

Give each pair of students a blank political map of the U.S. Then take turns to initial a state, one after the other, until all 50 states have been initialed or marked up by the duo’s own system. That is, each student chooses 25 states, representing the states “won” by each candidate. Each pair then gets a map of the electoral votes by state.  Calculate the sum of their votes, and determined who wins the highest office in the land. Some poor kid will give up California, Florida, Texas, and New York right away. That same kid probably gets beat in Connect 4 with an opponent’s first four chips too.

English: Electoral college map for the 2012, 2...

English: Electoral college map for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 United States presidential elections, using apportionment data released by the US Census Bureau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Five eighths of the fun occurs because most students can’t identify all the states and they definitely aren’t keen to how many electoral votes each state has. Knowing state locations and their ballpark populations is a huge advantage here. The big take away is that a candidate may win the popular vote and not the election.

From  start to finish, the entire game probably takes 15 minutes. It doesn’t fit my standards for today or tomorrow, nor did it when I had my students play. But it does fit my goal of having students look at the numbers behind a real-life event. I also hope it ramps up their civic interest.

This weekend I saw Ron Larson present at the California Mathematics Council South annual convention in Palm Springs. He previewed his new book, Math & YouIn it he has an extension devoted to Math & the Electoral College which is is online simulator that one can play with to show how winning the popular vote doesn’t always win the candidate the election.

You Can Count on this Game

This week I made a few changes to a class game I’ve done in the past. It went over like gangbusters and brought home the concept of relations and functions. Toward the end of my lesson on functions as special relations, I asked my algebra 2 classes if they wanted to play a game. Captive audiences do.

Here’s how it works. Tell the class you want them to count to ten as a class by taking turns shouting out the next number.  Getting to ten on the first try is near impossible. It takes several rounds for them to catch on. These are the rules:

No conspiring.  Otherwise leaders will emerge to organize a winning strategy.

All students must take a turn before anyone can go twice.

You shout “Go.” One student shouts “one,” another “two” and so on. If two (or more) shout out a number at the same time, the counting starts over because there’s overlap. Thus, the counting turns the function into a relation.

Several students mentioned they did something like this in their drama class except they were blindfolded. This twist could make it more interesting. I’m not sure. I like to see the anticipation on their faces.

The game works on many levels. It’s fun. It gives a non-math platform to talk about math (bazinga!), it hones the “failure leads to success” behavior I’m constantly talking about for math success, and it allows me to learn more about the character of the class.

Here’s an example of a round in which the class counted successfully to the number four, but then two students shouted out “five” and derailed the game.