Mathematics And Politics M110


Suggestions for topics for the Student Papers and Presentations:

Remember, regardless whether you take a more mathematical project or an essay, it is important to not just rehash things you found, but to submit a serious effort on your part. Look up (and list at the end of the paper) several relevant references. Document your arguments with examples from those references, wherever relevant. When possible, try to be quantitative. I want to see something that is related to the material covered in class, but that was not actually covered in the class.

I place a premium on your figuring out things, rather than reporting hearsay. Or if you do report on what you found in the references, make sure that you explain clearly what is going on - even if this means going in greater detail than in your references. If there are some conclusions to be drawn, give them! Give the references that you used.


Let me remind you about grading policy (I talked about this in class):


            Homework:                  25%

            Four Tests:                   50%

            Student Projects:          25% (written part, participation and presentation)


Student projects consist of written assignment, and a presentation. You can work in groups (but don’t have to) of up to three (3) people. If your project is a group project, the first page has to list the following:

1.      Title of the project

2.      Names of students in the group

3.      How will you divide the presentation: who will do what.

4.      Who did what fraction of the work. If somebody did not participate – I want to know.

Each student in a group: on a separate sheet of paper, write a one-paragraph (handwritten) summary of the paper, and indicate for every other member of your group the magnitude of her/his contribution. This is to be turned in separately.



The absolute deadline for handing in the final version of the papers is Tuesday, Nov 21.  Student presentations will be held during the last two weeks of the classes, after the Thanksgiving break.




POSSIBLE TOPICS: this is not an exhaustive list - you can come up with your own topic, but you must clear it with me first.


·         What is the structure of the government?

·         What is the size of the parliament? What voting methods are used to elect members of the parliament? Are these local elections, that is does each member represent a particular geographic district, or are they at-large nationwide elections? Are the elections for particular individuals or do you vote for a party? If the elections are nationwide, how is representation determined, for example, is there a quota for a minimum number of votes in order to seat a member of parliament, how does the number of representatives assigned to a party relate to the percentage of vote that party received?

·         How is the rest of the government determined? Does the parliament determine the chief executive (for example the prime minister) or is there a separate election for the chief executive? How are other ministers of state selected?

·         Consider the distribution of seats in the current parliament. Use the computer web site we used in class to compute the power of each of the parties. If possible, consider previous parliaments. How has the power distribution changed?

·         Are there any current issues being discussed in the country about the procedures used or the structure of the government? Have there been any recent changes adopted or proposed?

·         What is your overall sense of the system? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

·         Where in the US are other voting systems--cumulative voting, single transferable votes or approval voting--being used in determining elections? Carefully describe how each of these systems is being implemented.

·         How did these alternate systems develop? How long have they been in use? Were there particular fairness issues that they were designed to address?

·         Are there places, which have recently proposed alternate systems? What rationale was given for the proposed change? Were these changes accepted or defeated? Why?

·         More generally, under what circumstances do you think voting systems other than plurality voting should be considered? Why?