### An Election: Heads vs. Tails

Posted on

Yesterday during a tangent in my Algebra 2 class I realized how little understanding my students had about the voting process as well as how predictions are made and how, when, and why networks announce winners without all of the votes counted.

Today, I ran an activity that pitted Heads vs. Tails. Each student received a penny and flipped the coin to determine their vote: Heads or Tails.  The class consisted of 19 students.

In our first election, we strictly counted votes- a popular election.  Tails beat heads 10-9.

Back to this specific election:  With only the girls reporting, the vote was 6 for tails and 5 for heads.  I asked one boy to announce his result.  He flipped tails, so the vote count was 7 for tails and 5 for heads.  I declared, “I am ready to call the election for tails!”  The students protested; there were 7 students still left to vote.  Could heads have come back and won?  Yes, but this was unlikely since 5 of the 7 remaining flips would need to be heads.  We counted the votes and tails won 10-9 (4 of the 7 remaining flips went to heads).  I did not have a specific percentage in mind when I “called” the election (the real chance when I declared tails victorious was around 75%, but I wanted to make a point).  We discussed how, when, why (and the implications) newspapers and television stations “call elections.”

In our third election, I told the class that the front row (5 students) always voted heads and were going to vote for heads again.  With 14 students left to flip, I said that I had enough information to call the election and was sure heads would win.  Again, with the likelihood around 75% that heads would win, there was a decent chance tails could come back, but again, I was making a point.  We then discussed how this activity mirrored the Electoral College with states like California consistently voting democrat.

Finally (and I did not have time to do this election), I was going to weight each row differently.  The first row would vote and their winner would receive 4 votes, the winner of the second row would receive 3 votes, the 3rd row two votes and the back row one vote.  I was going to have each row announce in order 1-4, then redo this system with the back row announcing first.

Please leave a comment if you have any ideas on improving this exercise or need any help implementing it in your class.

## 5 thoughts on “An Election: Heads vs. Tails”

.. [read more] said:
November 13, 2012 at 11:34 am

I simply wanted to compose a quick note to be able to thank you for those fantastic guides you are showing here. My considerable internet search has at the end of the day been rewarded with good quality facts to write about with my guests. I ‘d state that that most of us readers actually are undeniably endowed to exist in a fine community with very many lovely professionals with helpful opinions. I feel somewhat lucky to have discovered the web pages and look forward to really more excellent minutes reading here. Thanks once again for a lot of things.

liquid dubstep said:
November 16, 2012 at 4:58 am

Not what I was looking for but wonderful anyway! Congrats!

Matt said:
November 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

This is good stuff, Adam. Long time no talk, I know, but I’m glad to see you doing interesting stuff in the classroom. Cutting edge cross-curricular conceptualization, Coach! Hope you and the missus are doing well.

Baptiste said:
March 19, 2013 at 9:35 am

Heads or tails statistics are truly surprising, common sense make us assume there would 50/50 probability and that more than 3 consecutive heads, or tails, is highly unlikely to happen. In truth, this happens a lot ! We just don’t toss a coin many consecutive times 🙂

An Election: Heads vs. Tails | With Respect to x said:
November 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

[…] note: this is a re-post from my personal blog (adamlavallee.com). The original post with comments can be found here. […]