Gerrymandering has been much in the news lately. There is a growing realization that this age-old problem has gotten more egregious in the past few decades, due in large part to the advent of new technologies and quantitative methods. This past fall, the New York Times ran an article titled "The New Front in the Gerrymandering Wars: Democracy vs Math." In this course, we will take the opposite point of view: math in defense of democracy! The course will be led by Dr. Mira Bernstein, a founding member of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG) at Tufts University, together with several MfA Master teachers who attended the "Educator Track" of the MGGG conference in Boston last summer. In this mini-course, we will approach the mathematics of redistricting from several angles: geometric (measuring the "compactness" of districts), algebraic (measures of partisan fairness, including the efficiency gap), and statistical (outlier analysis, measures of racially polarized voting in racial gerrymandering cases). Of course, these quantitative aspects of gerrymandering cannot be viewed in isolation: the legal, historical, social, and political context will be emphasized throughout the course. There will also be opportunities for brainstorming and reflecting on how these ideas can best be brought to our school communities and beyond. Participants interested in continuing to work on curriculum and tasks around this topic are encouraged to join the PLT on this topic later in the semester.
Mira Bernstein is on the research faculty at Tufts University in Science, Technology, and Society and is a founding member of the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group (MGGG) at Tufts. The broad mission of MGGG is to combat gerrymandering through a combination of mathematics research and education, creating a diverse community of mathematically inclined people around the country who can hold map-makers accountable during the next round of redistricting. Mira has led workshops for mathematics educators at the last three MGGG conferences in Boston, MA, Madison, WI, and Durham, NC.
Mira received her PhD in pure mathematics from Harvard in 1999. Since leaving academia in 2008, Mira's work has focused on using mathematics and statistics to solve social problems -- from exploring the effects of extending health insurance to low-income populations to combatting forced labor throughout the world. Mira is also very active in mathematics education, with a focus on mathematically talented middle- and high-school students from diverse backgrounds.