In November 2016, Kamuela Yong woke up to find that Donald Trump had lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College. In between his 45-minute commute to work, the University of University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu associate professor developed an example to explain the outcome to his mathematics students.
“Voting is fundamental to democracy but sometimes people feel that voting isn’t fair,” Yong said. “If we can understand the mathematics behind voting, we can be more informed citizens. The math doesn’t lie and doesn’t have favorites.”
Yong, the first Native Hawaiian to earn a PhD in applied mathematics, is also a recipient of the 2020 Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Teaching. He is always looking for ways to make math interesting for his students.
“Every election year I like to have a micro lesson on the mathematics of voting,” Yong said. “Math is all around us and I like to find relevant topics to engage with my students.”
This election year, he has developed two teaching videos—one on the mathematics of voting, the other on the mathematics of gerrymandering.
Yong said, “Election years inspire this content. There have been more reports of gerrymandering lately, with a case even going to the Supreme Court. There are also different methods of voting that are being used such as the 2020 Hawaiʻi Democratic presidential primary using ranked voting. Introducing people to these concepts through math allows me to communicate in an unbiased way.”