As we get nearer to the Federal Election, there are all kinds of stories popping out.
On the evening news, today, CTV was reporting that there was a real increase in the number of people who voted in the advance polls.
In our riding, for example, over 25 000 people voted compared with 17 000 last time. At this point, there’s no reporting on the number of mail-in ballots. There are also projections available as well here.
If you’re a teacher of mathematics, it’s a gold mine of data to be gathered and manipulated. It’s a great time to answer the question “When are we ever going to use this?” Well, a lot of people are using a lot of data right now. And, it’s fun. It’s one thing to know about the current data at home but how about some random riding elsewhere. Like aunts and uncles that live far away. How are things there compared to here.
It’s also fun taking that data and doing something computery with it. One of the fun things that I would have my classes do when elections come around was to build electronic voting machines. Never mind the fact that they don’t always have the best of results in real life, they can be fun to program or to build with electronic components.
I still remember the first time that I offered this as an exercise. I figured it might take a day or two to write and debug a simple voting machine. I expected that the screen might clear and three options appear, you press 1 or 2 or 3 and then enter, the results recorded, and the screen gets ready for the next voter. What I ended up was what students called building the ultimate voting machine. They added features like:
- all the candidates – there are more than 3, sir
- write in candidates
- voiced enabled interactions for those that needed it
- the ability to have big text for those that needed it
- a verification system to make sure the voter was entitled to vote (they assigned everyone in class a unique ID)
- a superuser section that let you override invalid votes and get the final results that were printed and then graphed on the screen
It was actually a fun teamwork activity and competitive. Teams would huddle around the keyboard whispering their thoughts. Then, someone might stand up and sneak a peak at someone else’s screen. I felt great about it and learned to allow more time next time.
We also turned election results into a Photoshop activity. Through my work on OSAPAC, I had somehow landed a black and white image of the voting districts in the country. When the results were in, it turned into a wonderful image colouring activity with overlaying statistics, buttons on each district leading to popup images and even more statistics.
Opportunities to have activities happen at the same time as a real time event don’t happen all that often. Take advantage and let your and your students minds explode with neat ideas.