Sunday, October 9, 2016

Electoral Decoder Shows Students the Math of Presidential Elections

Throughout 2016 PBS has been steadily adding more features to their Election Central website for students. Electoral Decoder is one of the recent additions to the site that I discovered through an ad on Facebook.

Electoral Decoder uses cartograms to show students the math of the Electoral College. In other words, it shows them that geographically large states like Wyoming have fewer Electoral votes than geographically smaller states with large populations. The Electoral Decoder also illustrates how a candidate can be the victor in the majority of states while losing the overall election. Finally, students can use the Electoral Decoder to identify voting patterns along geographic lines. For example, in 1860 Lincoln won the general election without being the victor in any of the southern states.

Students can use the timeline slider on the Electoral Decoder to view the outcome of any and all Presidential Elections in the history of the United States. Below the cartogram and timeline for each election, students will find resources like videos to learn more about each election.

Applications for Education
One of the neat things that students can do with the Electoral Decoder is look at how many possible ways a candidate could win an election. Challenge your students to figure out how many combinations of states would work for a candidate to win this year's election.

Videos explaining the Electoral College:
This TED-Ed lesson offers a short explanation of the Electoral College by answering the question, "does your vote count?" The video for the lesson is embedded below.

Common Craft offers The Electoral College in Plain English.