$.05 Your Opinion Sells May 4, 1999


by John Lindholm


| Introduction | Task | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | Teacher Notes |


. The words spoken in August by your principal echo hauntingly through your head: "I’ll leave it up to you… Just make sure the student body benefits from your decision." She also gave you her "it’s in your hands and on your head" look. That day in August you and your co-editor of the school newspaper decided to end the 60-year tradition of free weekly newspapers and charge five cents per copy. For this to benefit the students you would buy the school a new computer system for the exclusive use of the newspaper. You figured that $1000 would probably do it, $100 per month for the ten-month school year. But it is now Halloween and you have only earned $72.45. Other students have told you that they don’t feel like a part of the paper and hence have no reason to buy it. Your decision is to get the student body and the community involved in your newspaper by asking their opinion on important topics.

In other words, you will be adding public opinion polls to your newspaper to attempt to drum up interest and increase sales. You've always noticed how people perk up and pay attention when the President's approval ratings are shown on television. People always say, "That's our opinion? Nobody ever asked me." People always take interest when some sort of public opinion poll is involved. It seems like a great idea.

You realize you have no other choice…

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To avoid the wrath of your principal and the demise of your school's newspaper, you will do the following:

    1. Create a sound and reliable public opinion poll involving one, two, or three questions.
    2. Administer the poll using some means of gathering data.
    3. Analyze the gathered data using the necessary mathematical concepts.
    4. Report the findings of the poll in a newspaper article complete with some quotes from the persons who were polled produced using Microsoft Word.

Any problem-solving situation can be made easier using Polya's four-step method: Understand the problem, create a plan, carry out the plan, and reflect. If you have gotten this far in the webquest, I would assume that you understand the problem. If not, please go back and reread the introduction and task sections. Also, ask me if you need further explanation. You will complete the "create a plan," "carry out the plan," and "reflection" portions of the webquest as a team going through each section of the Process together. While you are capable of carrying out the process alone, I think working together on each step will enable you to produce a quality product while adhering to the three-week deadline. (Your article and polling information are due in three weeks).

To summarize, in three weeks you will hand in:

  1. The questions you asked in your poll.
  2. The raw data you collected while conducting your poll.
  3. The word-processed newspaper article complete with poll information.

**Before you start the Process portion of the webquest, be sure to read the desired outcomes in the rubric. These are the things I will be looking for when I grade your final products. Click here to go to the Evaluation section of the webquest.

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As a duo, assume these different roles in the order they are listed. This will ensure that you are successful during this webquest. Click on the link to receive additional information about each role

  1. Historian - While you act as historians, you will look at articles and other productions which analyzed different public opinion polls. They will be articles written for the Internet as well as articles from newspapers and magazines. You will also learn about the history of two popular and powerful public opinion polls: The Gallup Poll and The Neislen Ratings.
  2. Pollster (Phase 1)- Now that you have an idea of the history and importance of the public opinion poll, it is time to learn about the mathematics behind the number and type of persons who should polled. Also, during this phase you will learn how to develop the question or questions you will use while administering your poll. The final part of this phase is utilizing your knowledge to develop the questions and randomly choose the sample of persons you will poll.
  3. Canvasser - With your poll questions written and sample decided, now it is time to carry out your public opinion poll. Here's how…
  4. Pollster (Phase 2) - In this phase pollster turns statistician. Both learn how to and carry out statistical analysis of the data collected during the Canvasser stage.
  5. Newspaper Columnist - It is time to put it all together… During this final stage you will learn the basics of writing a newspaper article and how to blend in the polling information. Your final writing product will also come out of this stage.

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Other Resources

(other places to visit to "jumpstart" your poll or article)

Math Resources

Language Arts Resources

Search Engines

Print Media

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You will be graded on the poll questions and data you hand in as well as the newspaper article you create. Click here to see how your products will be graded.

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Conclusion (a reflection of what you’ve learned)

Congratulations on completing your public opinion poll and newspaper article. This was no small task by any standard. Take a moment right now to reflect upon the different steps you followed to create your finished product and take pride in what you have accomplished. From this webquest you have gained an appreciation and an understanding of how public opinion polls work and how newspaper articles are put together. Use this knowledge in the future when you see the results of a poll on television or in the print media to be sure that you are not led to believe something that is not true. I'm sure you will be empowered by the knowledge you now possess.

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Teacher Notes

I believe this webquest is appropriate for students no lower than a pre-algebra level and right up through any study of statistics in high school. At the different levels your expectations would certainly be different. This webquest begins to satisfy Pennsylvania State standard 2.6.11A.

Also, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had while creating this webquest. When I first envisioned the public opinion poll, I pictured students going door-to-door talking to people, gathering information. But, having thought it through fully, I would discourage this for two reasons. First, discourteous neighbors might hurt the students' motivation as they work through the project. Second, the safety of our children. Although the possibility is slim, it would be terrible if something happened to one of our students while working on this project.


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