Math and Politics

As someone who teaches math, I’m always on the lookout for math related news items. As a teacher, I am always on the look out for political news (since my job is tied to political decisions). Two weeks ago this interesting article popped up on Newsweek about the math of voting. Turns out, as mathematician Donald Saari says, “Election outcomes can more accurately reflect the choice of an election rule than the voters’ wishes.” This is most clearly reflected in the presidential outcomes in 2000.

The article directs readers to a website that gives the online community three methods of voting: 1) selecting your top candidate 2) selecting all candidates you think are acceptable for president and 3) ranking the candidates. As of right now, the top vote getter for all three methods is local boy done good Barack Obama.

However, with the complexity and oddness of the leviathan we call the primaries, the nominations are still up in the air. For the democrats, it looks like it might come down to the super mysterious super delegates. They are getting lots of chocolate and flowers this week from the Obama and Clinton camps.

I have to be honest. I understand the flawed BCS system for choosing a college football champion better then I understand the American primary system. However, I understand it enough to find primary outcomes decided by a cabal of political insiders a bit unfair.

And that’s not just me saying that it would be unfair; that is math saying it would be unfair. Of course, math has been saying that No Child Left Behind is unfair, but, politically, few have listened to that noise.

Everyone, please listen to math (5000 years of history can’t be wrong). Also, go celebrate Pi Day on March 14.

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