Pressing Toward the Prize

Here we are… down to the wire. I can hardly believe I am scheduled to present my Capstone project a week from today! I expect to finalize the second draft of my paper tomorrow, so I can begin to put together the slides for my presentation. I have the notes I need, my professor is helping me with the graphics and outline, so now, in the words of that ever-popular motivational Nike ad, “Just do it.”


I met with my professor yesterday about Capstone, and as usual, he made sense out of the obscure… I am so grateful for him!! He helped me understand where my paper needs to go in order to bring the information I have so far to its logical conclusion. I will be working on the last few sections of my paper this weekend, and then I should be ready to start putting together my presentation. At least, that’s the plan!

Spring Break has come and gone, and I spent a good part of it doing an assignment for one class (that was due the Friday of Break, if you can believe that!!!), studying for the mid-term in another class, and writing the rough draft for my Capstone. I got the assignment done on time, I did well on the mid-term exam on Tuesday, but I only managed to complete about 75% of the Capstone paper by Wednesday’s deadline. I am really grateful for the time I had to work on it, but I was quite disappointed that I didn’t manage to get it finished. I tried hard, but I just wasn’t able to pull it off.

It is critical that I complete the final sections of the paper soon, because I must begin focusing my attention on preparing for the presentation I will be giving in early May. To that end, I will be working to gather as much information as I can about Donald Saari’s analysis of election outcomes. I’ve laid the foundation in the paper, now I need to try to bring it to its logical conclusion… as soon as I determine what that is! So here we go, more reading and (hopefully!) more writing.

Spring Break has arrived, and I will be using this time to write the first draft of my Capstone paper that is due the Wednesday after we return to school. I met with my professor this past week to get some much-needed direction, and he showed me how to use concepts I learned in Linear Algebra to find and look at election results. For a 3-candidate election, a 3 x 6 matrix can be used to transform a voting profile vector from \mathbb{R}^6 into an election outcome vector in \mathbb{R}^3 (I think I got that right??). Anyway, what he said made perfect sense, even though my Linear Algebra skills are a bit rusty. So the plan for this week is to review transformations, among other things, see how to apply Linear Algebra to Mr. Saari’s concepts, and get as much as I can on paper before the week is over.

In creating my outline last week, I began to suspect that my initial goals for Capstone were a bit too ambitious. There is so much interesting material that could be covered, but in order to include everything I wanted to, I would practically be re-writing Mr. Saari’s book. Since that is not an option – for a multitude of reasons – I realize now that I need to narrow my focus in order to do justice to the topic. I will be meeting with my professor this coming week to get some direction on refining my goals, so that I will know how to proceed when I begin writing my rough draft during spring break.

It is time to report on my progress, but I am sad to say that I have none to report! The truth is, I have not been able to work on my Capstone project at all this week. Even though it has been on my “to do” list each day, it just has not happened. However… the preliminary outline for my paper and presentation is due tomorrow, so I’d say it is pretty clear what I will be doing between now and then!!

I am continuing to read Chaotic Elections, and I still find this entire subject of “elections gone wrong” quite fascinating. How can something we often take for granted wreak such havoc in our lives – without us even realizing it is happening? And then when “we” think we have found a wonderful strategy to bend an election in “our” favor, we create another whole set of problematic outcomes. Amazing!

So far, the book has been part history lesson, part civics lesson, part statistics, and a fair amount of surprises. Donald Saari does a great job of putting the voting paradoxes in terms that can be easily understood, such as using allegories to school grades and class standings for various voting methods, before he gets to the actual mathematics he used to analyze them. His mathematical analysis will be the meat of my Capstone presentation, but I also intend to use some simpler examples to aid in understanding.

This week I will be working on the outline as I continue to read Chaotic Elections, all the while referencing my linear algebra textbook, as needed.


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  • gramsonjanessa: I can't wait to listen to your capstone presentation in the spring! Your proposal was really interesting and I'm interested to see how the linear alge
  • dewittda: This is impressive! I thought I was good because I solved a rubik‚Äôs cube once in an hour. I served with a guy in the Air Force who could solve a r
  • ZeroSum Ruler: The Euclidean algorithm should me the mainstream way we teach students how to find the GCF. Why isn't it? A mystery.