Ways and Means, 1935

Game in Development | Available to Download

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This game is a RTTP game for basic college mathematics (quantitative literacy) classes. The central historical focus is the legislative debates in Congress in 1935 surrounding what became the Social Security Act of 1935. The questions for the game’s players are, how much will social programs cost? Where will the funds come from to pay for the new programs? Should there even be any new programs? What assumptions are best for making these calculations? How can goals be justified with numbers? Which calculations are most persuasive?

The nature of the conflict in the game is that some members of Congress oppose and some support the various social legislation proposals as they are introduced in the Senate and House; some favor a narrow social security program, others a more expansive one, and some are absolutely opposed to any such legislation. Some favor including virtually all Americans in the program, while others adamantly want some groups excluded (farm laborers, domestic workers). Figures from outside of the Congress – such as leaders of the Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP, Mississippi plantation owners, and the National Association of Manufacturers – will also voice their positions during Committee hearings as well as in the committee’s “recesses” and in the mark up sessions at the end of the game. In the game, the “winners” are the players who best use math to achieve their legislative goals; the game will be structured so that policy debates are funneled into estimations of costs over time. Victory likely goes to the faction that makes its goals most appealing. thru the use of verifiable mathematical calculations, to reporters and other indeterminate players The journalists and other indeterminates will be written so that they too must do math in the game and they will have their own objectives.

The mathematical content covered includes population growth, inflation, interest, and distributions/histograms/means of ages and incomes, as well as actuarial projections of future life expectancy and estimates of future economic growth. The target course is a mathematics course at the quantitative-literacy level, with a prerequisite of pre-college algebra.

About the Authors:

John Curran, Mark Higbee, R.D. Jones, and Andrew Ross are the authors of Ways and Means, 1935.
Mark Higbee teaches African American and U.S. history at Eastern Michigan University. His Ph.D. is from Columbia University. Professor Higbee has been involved with the RTTP pedagogy since 2006 and currently serves on the board of the Reacting Consortium.  His RTTP class for first-year students was featured in The Chronicle of Higher Education ("In Improving Higher Education, Which Core Matters More: Skills or Curriculum?", September 30, 2011). He has also published a study on student engagement and RTTP ("How Reacting to the Past Games ‘Made Me Want to Come to Class and Learn’: An Assessment of the Reacting Pedagogy at EMU, 2007-2008").
Andrew Ross is Professor of Mathematics and Statistics and Eastern Michigan University. His research is in optimization and stochastic systems (mainly queueing), together known as Operations Research (O.R.) He has done work in electrical power grid systems and telecommunications queueing. Additionally, He trains the EMU Math Contest in Modeling (MCM) team.