Gerrymandering is the term for when political borders (shapes of districts, etc.) are set so that one political party/group gains an advantage.  It’s widespread, but there are some cases in the court system now trying to address the issue — and mathematicians are helping.  From The Nib comes a comic the describes mathematicians’ roles when it comes to Gerrymandering.  Check it out!


Read the comic linked above.  Answer the following questions in a couple of sentences each.

  1.  Using the cartoon of red/blue houses, explain how gerrymandering can take an evenly split vote between two parties and make it a “majority win” for one of the parties.
  2. Courts have rules against districts in the past for racially-based gerrymandering.  But why have the court systems been mostly powerless to rule on partisan gerrymandering cases to this point?
  3. Mathematicians are tackling the unresolved question of how “compact” districts can be and how to define that compact-ness.  What are two ways that “compact” can be defined mathematically?
  4. In your own words, describe what is meant by “negative curvature”.  Why is this a red flag for districts?
  5. How are mathematicians using “maps that could have been” as a way to frame the gerrymandering discussion?




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