Inspired by a great speech last night, I stopped to watch this 4-minute video from Commoncraft on Electing a US President in Plain English. What I discovered was that, in their typical “plain English” way, they have done a fantastic job of making sense of the idea of proportion and, buried in this little video, are some great simple, relevant, problems about algebraic expressions, fractions, and percents.

Often, we only talk about the electoral college when we discuss voting methods in a liberal arts math class, but there are so many ways you could use this video as part of a set of algebra word problems at the most basic algebra/pre-algebra levels. Here are a few…

Let x represent the number of districts in a state, write an algebraic expression for the number of electors for the state.

California has 55 electors, how many districts are in the state of California?

There are 538 electoral votes. Wisconsin’s electors get 5/269 of the electoral votes. Use an equivalent fraction to find out how many electors Wisconsin has.

A candidate needs to win 270 electoral votes to become the president-elect. What percent of the electoral votes is this?

Here’s a link to a US Electoral College Map, in case you’d like to write your own problems. If only every set of word problems came with a little “commen-sense” video explaining the principles!

Dr. Maria Andersen has spent most of her career teaching, writing curriculum, and developing digital products for learning. Recently she returned to the classroom, having new teaching adventures in K-12 middle and high school.