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Teaching with the ASA’s Election Prediction Contest

My latest piece for the NYT Learning Network gets students using statistics and data analysis to create entries for the American Statistical Association‘s Election Prediction contest.

The ASA’s contest invites students to predict the winner of each state in the upcoming Presidential election, as well as the vote-share for each major party candidate.  My piece offers students some basic strategies to consider when making their predictions.

A straightforward strategy for predicting the winner of each state would be to use the latest aggregate polling data from a reputable source. The New York Times offers a state-by-state probabilities chart that provides a projected outcome for each state as determined by each of several media outlets, including The Times itself as well as FiveThirtyEight and Daily Kos, among others.

Students could choose one of the outlets to use as the basis for their predictions, but to satisfy the written requirement of the contest they should be prepared to provide some justification for their choice. For example, they could research each outlet’s methodology and explain why they found one more compelling than another (perhaps more polls are used from each state, or the predictions have been more stable over time).

In addition to introducing students to several basic prediction strategies, there are plenty of links to online resources where students can explore visualizations of voting trends and research historical voting data.  The lesson is freely available here.

The ASA’s contest ends October 24th, so get predicting!

Henry Segerman at MoMath

segerman-math-encounterMathematician, artist, and 3D-printing virtuoso Henry Segerman will be speaking at the Museum of Mathematics on October 5th, 2016.

Henry is currently a professor at Oklahoma State University, where he researches geometry, topology, and mathematical visualization.  His mathematical 3D printing is truly amazing:  to start, you can check out his triple gears, stereographic projections, and Hilbert curves.  And he has recently published a book, Visualizing Mathematics with 3D Printing, that includes companion 3D prints that readers can download for free and print themselves!  He is also involved in fascinating work in spherical video (see this spherical droste video for an example) and virtual reality, and has been featured in several Numberphile videos.

Henry will be giving a talk as part of MoMath’s Math Encounters series.  His talk is titled “3D Shadows: Casting Light on the Fourth Dimension”, and is sure to make for a fascinating evening.  I am proud and excited to be introducing Henry, whom I’ve known for many years, and whose work inspires me both as a mathematician and as a teacher.

You can find out more about the event and register here.


siam-ed16I’m excited to be heading to Philadelphia this weekend for the SIAM Conference on Applied Mathematics Education (SIAM ED16).

I’ll be presenting on the work I do with mathematical simulation in Scratch, and I’m really looking forward to the variety of talks on bringing applied mathematics and computing into classrooms.  In particular, I’m excited to hear Maria Hernandez from NCSSM talk about how to teach modeling and Gil Strang from MIT talk about the teaching of Linear Algebra.

You can learn more at the conference website, and see the full conference schedule here.

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9/25/16 — Happy Pythagorean Square Day!

Happy Pythagorean Perfect Square Day!


We’ve had a lot of fun dates this year:  several Geometric Mean Days, several Square Days, and even a Power of 2 Day!  But I’m pretty sure that the numbers of dates all being perfect squares and satisfying the Pythagorean Theorem is the rarest of them all!

Math Photo: A Dodecagon of Octagons


I’d never looked closely at the Parachute Jump in Coney Island, but recently noticed the octagons at each vertex of the dodecagon 250 feet up in the sky.  It really is a beautiful structure, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not it deserves to be called “the Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn”.