The Mathematics of Voting

The Mathematics of Voting


Dr. Andy Felt
Associate Professor
Department of Mathematical Sciences
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Chris Natzke
Mathematics Major
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Lesson Feedback


The goal of this video lesson is to teach students about new and exciting ways of holding an election that they may not be aware of. Students will learn three different methods of voting: plurality, instant runoff, and the Borda count. They will be led through a voting experiment in which they will see the weakness of plurality when there are three or more candidates. This lesson will show that not every voting system is perfect, and that each has its strengths and weaknesses. It will also promote thought, discussion, and understanding of the various methods of voting. There are no mathematical prerequisites. The lesson should take approximately one hour to complete. No supplies are needed, but the downloadable ballots (one per student) will be helpful.

Instructor Biography

Andy Felt is Associate Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. He teaches courses in Operations Research and Game Theory.

Chris Natzke is a student of Professor Felt.

Additional Online Resources

American Mathematical Association: Voting and Elections: Introduction
This resource, provided by the American Mathematical Association, presents an introduction to various voting systems and an evaluation of those systems.

PBS: Bring the World to Your Classroom
This page is sponsored by PBS Teachers and provides lessons on various systems of voting that are mapped to the NCTM standards.