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Scenario #6: 11th Grade Social Studies Teacher

I created an activity for my students that involve election data from the second closest presidential election in history-the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. This activity helped my students understand the Electoral College and some of the strategies used by presidential candidates. I divided up m students into groups and gave each a spreadsheet containing data from the 1960 presidential election. The spreadsheet contained the popular and Electoral College results from every state and territory. Formulas at the bottom of the columns calculated the total number of popular votes and Electoral votes for each candidate. Each group was asked to conduct a series of investigations by manipulating the spreadsheet data. The questions they investigated include: “Can you change the data so that Mr. Nixon wins the election rather than Mr. Kennedy?” “Can you change the outcome of the election by changing the election results in only one state?” “Two states?” “Three states?” “Can you change the popular vote so that one candidate wins the popular election but loses the Electoral College results?” “Can you change the popular vote so that the same candidate loses the popular vote but wins the election?” What is the fewest number of states you can change to have one candidate win the popular vote but lose the election?” These “What if?” activities helped my students gain an understanding of the Electoral College.

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Technology spectrum: The questions that this teacher asks of her students are almost impossible to determine without the use of reasonably powerful computing technology. But with the spreadsheets, these students can see immediately the important changes that can occur following relatively small adjustments to the learning scenario.

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Learning Spectrum: This is a quite complicated assignment, made easy by the use of spreadsheets.

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Rigor/relevance: Understanding the vagaries of the electoral college is essential to becoming a responsible voter. As a "what if" game, this assignment is an excellent example of the adaptation quadrant (D).

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Recommendation: Allow students to follow in real-time a current election cycle, and compare their own predictions again Nate Silver at http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/.

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