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Math Graphics: 

Putting Gun Death Statistics in Context 

 

Today's Snack: Make a trail mix of M&Ms, peanuts, raisins and sunflower seeds. Statistics is all about counting - but we won't make you count your snack. Have a glass of water to help wash it down. 

 

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 Supplies: 

Print out this page for each student, group or class | Scissors 

  

  

Math graphics are useful because they help us "picture" reality. We use numbers AND illustrations to symbolize facts. Let's take a look at a controversial subject - gun homicides - to get "the big picture" of how deaths by firearms fit into the overall causes of deaths in our country. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in a recent year (2013), a total of 2,596,993 Americans died that year. This is how many of them died of the top 10 causes. There are many more causes than in this chart, but here are the big killers: 

  

   Heart disease: 611,105 

   Cancer: 584,881 

   Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205 

   Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557 

   Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978 

   Alzheimer's disease: 84,767 

   Diabetes: 75,578 

   Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979 

   Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112 

   Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149 

  

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2013, this many Americans died from gun homicide: 

  

12,253 

  

Now let's make a graphic to show the proportion of gun homicide deaths in the U.S. to the rest of the causes of death. 

  

First, print out this map of America, or find one in a book: 

  

  

  

Next, cut out each individual heart. Each heart represents 10,000 people who died of heart disease in 2013. Since more than 610,000 people, you will need 61 hearts (61 x 10,000 = 610,000). An easy way to discover how many hearts there are is to multiply the top row (8 hearts) times the left side (8 hearts), or 64 hearts. So there are too many hearts here. How many hearts should you cut out to give to somebody else? (3) 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

Once you have the hearts cut out, representing the heart disease deaths, let's turn to the ribbons, which represent cancer deaths. In 2013, more than 580,000 Americans died of cancer. Cut out these ribbons. Each one represents 10,000 American cancer deaths. There are 64 ribbons here and you need 58. So how many should you discard? 

  

  

  

 

  

  

Now, to symbolize the all the other deaths BESIDES those from gun violence, here are dots to represent 10,000 people each. There are 1,380 dots. You get that answer this way: 

2,596,993 total deaths 

- 611,105 heart disease deaths 

- 584,881 cancer deaths 

- 12,253 gun homicide deaths 

1,388,754 deaths from other causes 

  

Now cut out these dots. There are 1,380, representing the 1,388,754 deaths from other causes. Each dot represents 10,000 deaths. You can cut them in rows to save time: 

  

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Last, but not least, to represent those 12,253 gun homicides, cut out one handgun and about one-fourth of the second one, to symbolize 10,000 deaths + 2,253 deaths = 12,253. Discard the other three-fourths of the second one: 

  

  

  

Now, place all the symbols onto the U.S. map - the hearts representing heart disease deaths, the ribbons representing cancer deaths, the dots representing deaths from all other causes besides gun homicides, and finally, the 1 handgun pictures. 

  

Math graphics are helpful because they show reality like a picture, so we can think about things - such as gun homicides - and get "the big picture" of how everything fits together in the real world. 

  

  

By Susan Darst Williams www.DailySusan.com Mathtivities 2015 

  

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