Mathematics and Politics

MAA PREP Workshop

June 16 - 20, 2008

Williams College

Williamstown, MA 01267


Program Directors: Allison M. Pacelli (Williams College) and Alan D. Taylor (Union College)


To Register: Visit Registration fee is $325 before May 5, or $450 after.


Workshop Description.

The field of Mathematics and Politics seeks to answer questions arising in political science from a mathematical perspective. For example:

* Who should have won the 2000 presidential election, and—more generally—what are the best voting procedures to use when there are three or more candidates?

* What fraction of power does the president have in the US Federal System, and—more generally— how does one measure political influence in legislative systems?

* How can marital assets be divided fairly, and how is this related to the resolution of international disputes?

Many questions like these can be answered with little or no background in either mathematics or political science. The accessibility of the material, therefore, makes it a perfect backdrop to introduce mathematical reasoning to undergraduates in the humanities and social sciences, giving them the opportunity to investigate active areas of mathematics research and refine their critical thinking skills in a setting that is largely noncomputational.

This workshop will introduce several areas of mathematics and politics, including escalation, conflict, voting systems (including Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem and the Gibbard-Satterthwaite Manipulability Theorem), power, fair division of divisible and indivisible goods, and apportionment. Participants will develop the tools needed to introduce such topics to their students, by either enriching courses with new material or by developing a new course devoted entirely to the subject in as early as the fall of 2008. There is also an abundance of material here that mathematics majors will find interesting and challenging as well. Participants will be provided with some reading materials and related questions to think about before the workshop.



Arrival: Sunday, June 15th

Departure: Friday, June 20th (workshop concludes at noon)

Daily Schedule



Workshop fees include housing and three meals per day at a dining hall on campus. You are responsible for your own transportation. Most rooms are singles with shared baths, and all are equipped with wireless internet. There are also several restaurants within walking distance. You may bring a guest for an addition charge of $65 per day.

More Information About Dorms and Dining Halls.


Transportation and Parking.

The nearest airport is Albany International Airport (ALB). It is about an hour's drive from campus.

Parking is available on campus, free of charge.


Recreational Facilities.

Participants will have access to the Williams College athletic facilities, including a 50 meter indoor pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, squash courts, fitness center, weight room, and track. There are many hiking trails within walking distance to campus as well.


Nearby Attractions.

Williamstown Theatre Festival

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

MASS MoCA - Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art

Williams College Museum of Art

Images Cinema


Maps and Directions.

Campus Map (We will be meeting daily in Bronfman 106.)

Directions to Campus

Some Frequently Asked Questions


Please send any questions to Allison Pacelli.

This MAA PREP workshop is funded by the NSF (grant DUE-0341481).