problem solvers: solutions: The inaugural address
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This is one of those crazy good problems that has all levels of math in it. First, there are websites, such as www.statista.com/statistics/243686/length-of-inaugural-addresses-of-us-presidents/ that list the length of all US presidents inaugural speeches (for vice-presidents who take over as president, their first year is listed as 0 words because they don’t give an inaugural speech.) And, including the inaugural addresses of all presidents is one way to bring more rigor to the problem.
Students can also find the word counts rounded to the nearest tens, since it is rare that a person delivers a speech without additions and subtractions while speaking. Using speech lengths that are rounded, or not, allows students to find the measures of central tendency, and then discuss which measure would best represent the central tendency of all the lengths. Are there outliers?
And then there is always the opportunity of estimating how long the next inaugural speech will be.
This little gem of a problem allows for a lot of discourse opportunity. I used the data that was given in the problem with my first-year Algebra students during a lesson on measures of central tendency. There wasn’t enough depth in the data for a good discussion for students in middle or high school, but I could see how it could have been expanded, and highly recommend it for use in courses were central tendency is taught.