Newswise — In a presidential election year, the term "voting" brings to mind national elections. Candidates are vying for attention in debates and primaries, polls are taking the pulse of the electorate, blogs are offering opinions on everything candidates say, and, ultimately, a general election leads to the selection of the next President of the United States. Many citizens are deeply engaged in these processes; others pay varying degrees of attention.
Mathematics, Statistics and Voting
Regardless of their involvement, however, most people wonder at some point: "Does my vote matter? Is the election process fair? Are the votes being counted correctly?" The answers to these questions are incredibly complex, but, fortunately, mathematics and statistics provide the means to deal with the complexity of how votes are cast and counted and how that influences the outcome. For example, statistics provides ways to identify, measure, and address sources of error, and mathematics provides insights into the effect of different voting systems on the outcome of an election.
Voting is not just about electoral politics, however; it's part of everyday life. "Voting" is something that happens in many contexts not related to politics. In any situation in which preferences are expressed—where to have dinner, how to raise money for a charity, who makes the team, etc.—voting in some way occurs. Surprisingly, different voting systems often yield different outcomes.
Resources for this year's Mathematics Awareness Month are designed to help explain what makes these votes matter, as well as how the voting system used affects the outcome, regardless of the context of the voting. At http://www.mathaware.org, you can view and/or download these articles and essays, as well as a copy of the 2008 poster, "What Makes My Vote Matter?"
About Math Awareness Month and JPBM
Mathematics Awareness Month, held each year in April, was created to increase public understanding of and appreciation for mathematics. It began in 1986, when President Reagan issued a proclamation establishing National Mathematics Awareness Week. Activities for Mathematics Awareness Month generally are organized on local, state and regional levels by college and university departments, institutional public information offices, student groups, and related associations and interest groups.
The JPBM is a collaborative effort of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the American Statistical Association (ASA), the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM).