Presidential candidates argue back and forth about the value of the “safety net”, but what exactly is it? In general, the safety net refers to the various government funded social welfare programs such as food stamps and subsidized health care that help lift lower income individuals and their families out of poverty. However, liberals and conservatives dispute the impact these programs have on society. Does the safety net prevent low income families from falling below the poverty line or do these programs merely encourage more families to depend on the government? KQED’s The Lowdown takes a deeper look into what the safety net it, how it works, and the argument around the topic in this engaging video produced by Explainer Music.

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While the Occupy Wall Street protests have died down, income inequality, the issue that sparked the movement in the first place, still remains a problem. In 2012, more than half of the income in America went to the top 10% of wage earners. The United States has not experienced income inequality to this extent since the Great Depression, when the top 1% earned a quarter of America’s income. With the help of cartoon journalist Andy Warner, KQED’s the Lowdown investigates how income inequality grew over the years and how deep the divide is today.

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It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, but have the March on Washington’s demands been met? King fought to eliminate school segregation, guarantee voting rights and create greater economic equality in America. While The March on Washington led to great steps in creating equality in society, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate among blacks is double that of whites, and more than a third of black adults with jobs work for poverty level wages. Take a look at these interactive charts created by KQED’s the Lowdown that explore how the gaps between whites and blacks have changed since The March on Washington such as the statistics behind unemployment rate and percentages of adults who completed high school.

Find hundreds more engaging math-focused media and integrated activities, all aligned with CCSS at PBS LearningMedia.

Suggested Activity:

**Learning Outcomes**

Students will be able to

- calculate the rate of change
- use the rate of change to interpret data in real-life graphs

**Common Core State Standards:** 8.F.B.4, 8.F.B.5

**Vocabulary:** Slope, rate of change, ratio, constant slope, constant rate of change

**Materials:** Printed copies of the graphs

**Procedure**

**1. Introduction (10 minutes, whole group)**

This lesson uses interactive graphs that present the relative inequality in health, education, and economics between African Americans and white Americans, a full 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. (If possible, distribute printed copies of these graphs to students for easier reference.) While many students will likely have heard of Dr. King and his iconic speech, they may not know as much about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom or of the civil rights struggle that led to the historic gathering in the summer of 1963. This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the context, people, and issues behind the graphs themselves.

To introduce the mathematics part of the lesson, review slope and rate of change with students. Slope is calculated by finding the ratio of vertical change to horizontal change for two points on a line. Remind students that the slope of a line is the same between any two points on that line. This is called a constant slope, or a constant rate of change. (Make sure students interpret this phrase in the correct way. A constant rate of change does not mean that the rate is constantly changing—it means that it is a single, constant rate.)

Many real-life functions do not have constant rates of change, however. Use the Unemployment Rate graph as an example. There have been big fluctuations in the unemployment rate between 1965 and 2012, and the change has certainly not been constant over that entire period. Ask students to identify which periods showed the greatest increase in African American unemployment rates, as indicated by the most extreme spikes. (They should find two periods: 1979–1983 and 2007–2010.) Then, calculate the rate of change during those periods.

**2. Activity (10 minutes, pairs or small groups)**

In small groups, have students construct an answer to the following question: What story do the graphs tell about economic and social equality over the past 50 years?

To answer the question, students should pick at least two graphs to analyze. They should do the following:

- Describe the overall trend in the data from 1963–2012.
- Describe the story that the data tell in terms of the issue of equality between blacks and whites.
- Calculate the rate of change for each function during each decade (or periods of extreme change).
- Use the rate of change to explain how living, economic, or social conditions measurably changed from decade to decade.

By the end of the activity time, students should be able to form some sort of evidence-based argument about whether economic and social equality between whites and blacks has changed since 1963.

**3. Conclusion (10 minutes, whole group)**

Have each group present its argument, referencing data, the rate of change, and trends in the graph. Use the following questions to push students’ thinking:

● Have economic and social opportunities for blacks actually increased, or have they just kept pace with those for whites?

● Looking at the data, are there any specific areas where you would expect opportunities for blacks to eventually eclipse those for whites?

Continue to bring the conversation back to the issue of the rate of change. Specifically, if opportunities for whites and blacks are both experiencing the same rate of change, then is the opportunity gap changing at all?

**Activity Extension:** Discuss the issue of economic equality—Why is it so important, and why has it been so elusive despite major societal and political changes since 1963? Put aside the mathematical conversation for the conclusion of the class and ask students what they think is needed for equality to become a reality, and not just a dream.

America, a nation of immigrants, has attracted a large number of people from around the world. Ever since the first Europeans moved here in the 1600s, American has experienced complicated relationships with newcomers. In every cycle of immigrants, the newcomers have often faced animosity, reflecting the social and economic conditions of the time. Explore this interactive timeline created by KQED’S The Lowdown that takes a look at America’s immigration policies.

Find hundreds more engaging math-focused media and integrated activities, all aligned with CCSS at PBS LearningMedia.

Suggested Activity:

**Learning Outcomes**

Students will be able to

● interpret graphical data

● observe general trends in data

● generate questions for further research

**Common Core State Standards:** 6.SP.B.5

**Vocabulary:** Immigration, immigrants, infographic, residency

**Materials:** Printed copies of the Immigrant Residency infographic

**Procedure**

**1. Introduction (10 minutes, whole group)**

Students will have varying familiarity with immigration, so a brief discussion about the topic may be appropriate. Explain that immigrants are people from one country who settle in another country. Most legal immigrants are admitted into the U.S. because they already have a family member legally living there, they have been hired by a U.S. company, or they have been granted asylum.

Next, explain to students that an infographic, or information graphic, is a visual image designed to present complex information quickly and clearly. Hand out printed copies of the infographic. You may project this in the classroom as well. Give students a minute or two to silently make some observations on their own. Then ask them, What information does the infographic contain? For this initial conversation, do not try to interpret the data. Instead, make sure that students know that the graph shows the number of legal immigrants gaining U.S. residency every year from 1820 to 2012.

Be sure to point out that the graph does not show the number of new arrivals to the country each year; rather, it lists the number of immigrants who obtained legal U.S. residency during that year. This distinction is important. In 1991, only about 420,000 of the approximately 1.9 million immigrants who gained legal residency were new arrivals to the country. The rest were people who had immigrated legally before 1991, but obtained legal permanent resident status in that year. People who legally obtain U.S. residency may legally work and live in the country, although they are not citizens.

**2. Activity (10 minutes, pairs)**

Have students look at the infographic in pairs. Each pair should try to answer the following questions:

● In terms of the rate at which legal immigrants gained U.S. residency, describe the period between 1940 and 1990. What trends or patterns do you see?

● During which 20-year period did the numbers of legal immigrants being granted U.S. residency change the most rapidly and unpredictably?

● Write down your observations about U.S. immigration and residency from 1820–2012. What story do the data tell?

● How, if at all, would you predict the rates of immigrant residency to change over the next decade? What other information would you need to help you make an accurate prediction?

After the groups have finished, have them record three questions about immigration and U.S. history to which they would like to find answers. The questions should arise from the data in the infographic, although they need not be mathematical. Appropriate questions may include, Why were numbers of legal immigrants obtaining residency so high between 1907–1913? How did rates of residency change after 9/11?

**3. Conclusion (5 minutes, whole group)**

Survey the groups’ responses about some of the questions presented and ask students to justify their answers with evidence from the infographic. Conclude by compiling a list of student-generated questions about immigration and residency.

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Who does California place behind bars? According to the CDCR 2011 data, most inmates originate from Southern California and are non-white. Other data also shows that around 20 percent of inmates are age 50 and up and 95 percent of all inmates are male. Explore KQED’S The Lowdown’s interactive charts that take a closer look at the demographics of inmates in California.

Find hundreds more engaging math-focused media and integrated activities, all aligned with CCSS at PBS LearningMedia.

Suggested Activity:

**Learning Outcomes**

Students will be able to

- solve problems involving finding a part, given the whole and the percent
- use data to make an argument

**Common Core State Standards:** 6.RP.A.3c, 6.SP.B.5

**Vocabulary:** Percentages, ratios, infographic, incarcerated

**Materials:** Calculators; Infographic handout

**Preparation:** Make a pie chart with some actual data about students. Suggestions include birthday season, eye color, or number of siblings. Data should be represented as percentages.

**Procedure**

**1. Optional Introduction (5–10 minutes, whole group)**

Begin by showing the pie chart you prepared. Ask students for their observations: What information does the chart show? Explain that the pie chart shows percentages, but that you can figure out the actual numbers that the percentages represent if you know the total number of people who were surveyed. (If necessary, remind students that percentages are ratios, and that they express quantities as part of 100.) Show students this equation:

[Total # surveyed] * [% Responding] = [# of Respondents]

Now enter data into the equation and solve for the number of respondents. Repeat for each category in the pie chart so that students see that the total number of respondents equals the total number surveyed.

After students have figured out the number of respondents for each category, ask them whether the data help them come to any conclusions about the distribution of birthdays, eye color, or number of siblings. What observations can they make based on the data?

**2. Prison Population Activity (10 minutes, small groups)**

Hand out the infographic. Explain to students that an infographic, or information graphic, is a visual image designed to present complex information quickly and clearly. Give students a few minutes to look at the infographic on their own and then ask if they have any questions about how the data are presented. (Note: In the “California Prison Population by Race” graph, you may wish to explain that the second and fourth bars are the distribution of races in the general, non-incarcerated population.)

Have students choose to review either the age and gender infographics or the race infographic. They should use the data in the infographic and the information about the total number of people in California’s prisons to calculate how many people of each age, gender, or race are imprisoned. Students may use calculators during this part of the activity.

**3. Data Analysis Activity (10 minutes, small groups)**

Once students have finished the calculations, have them look critically at the data with other groups who analyzed different graphs. Based on what they have learned, ask students to identify which populations (in terms of age, gender, and race) are overrepresented. Do prisons have the same demographics as the non-incarcerated population? What does this say about crime and punishment in California? If students were in charge of crime-prevention efforts for California, toward which groups and subgroups should they target their programming?

**4. Conclusion (5 minutes, whole group)**

Quickly review student calculations of the total number of people in prison, broken down by age, gender, and race. Then have students do some analysis. Ask them

- Were you surprised by any of the data?
- What conclusions can you draw from the data?
- What recommendations did you make about crime-prevention efforts?

Confused about the conflict in Ukraine? Shortly after the Olympics, the crisis in Ukraine escalated to a breaking point. The media flashed images of protests in Ukraine, reported on the latest developments in Crimea and even highlighted the growing tension between Russia and America. But what exactly does it all mean? Explore these eight short videos compiled by KQED’S The Lowdown that help explain the history leading up to this point, the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, and the significance of Crimea.

The United States implements the strictest felon voting laws in the world. As of 2010, the government denied 5.8 million Americans the right to vote due to criminal activity. Each state enacts its own felon voting laws, where all but two states (Maine and Vermont) have created laws that in some form prevent current or former criminals from voting. Explore KQED’s The Lowdown’s interactive map, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, that shows felon voting laws in each state, along with a percentage of the population in each state that has been impacted.

Living in California may cost you more than you anticipated. Currently, the minimum wage in California is $8, but research shows a California resident needs to make $11/hour to pay for basic living expenses. Explore these interactive infographs created by KQED’s The Lowdown, with the help of Amy K. Glasmeier, an urban planning professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that show estimated monthly costs of basic expenses and the annual income needed to afford these expenses in different households.

Suggested Activity:

**Learning Outcomes**

Students will be able to

● calculate weekly and monthly pay given hourly pay

● determine whether monthly pay is sufficient to cover living expenses

● define minimum wage and living wage

**Common Core State Standards:** 5.MD.A.1, 6.RP.A.3b, 7.RP.A.2c, 7.RP.A.3

**Vocabulary:** Minimum wage, living wage

**Materials:** For the class: one computer with Internet access and a large monitor; per two to four students: computer

**Preparation:** Find out the minimum hourly wage in your state and the hourly rate for local low-wage jobs. Estimate minimum monthly costs of food, health insurance, housing, and transportation for a single adult. Optional: For student research, you may gather relevant resources showing costs.

**Procedure**

**1. Introduction (5 minutes, whole group)**

Ask students about their experiences with hourly pay. Ask, Who works for pay or has an older sibling who does? What do you/they do? What does a babysitter (or other jobs mentioned) earn per hour?

As needed, supply information on typical low-wage hourly jobs.

Ask students to calculate weekly (40 hours) and monthly (4 weeks) pay for a couple of the suggested hourly amounts. For ease of mental calculation, students may round hourly wage to the nearest whole dollar.

Explain the concept of minimum wage and tell students what the minimum wage is in your state. Ask students to calculate weekly and monthly pay based on minimum wage.

**2. Could I Live on That? (10–15 minutes, pairs)**

Lead the group in brainstorming categories of living expenses. Tell students that they are babysitters earning $10 per hour, $400 per week, and $1600 per month. Ask, If you live alone, what would you have to use the money for?

If students do not suggest housing, food, medical care, and transportation, raise these yourself. Let students know the typical costs for these or distribute the information you gathered so that they can find out themselves.

Next, pose this challenge to students: If you are making minimum wage, will you earn enough to cover your monthly expenses? In other words, is minimum wage a living wage? If it’s not enough, how much more would you need each month?

As students work, circulate to check that they are choosing appropriate calculations and to encourage them to organize their work so someone else could follow their steps.

Wrap up by asking students to share their conclusions and reasoning.

**3. Conclusion: Comparing with California (5 minutes, whole group)**

Engage students in a discussion comparing minimum wage vs. living wage in California in 2013. Students should view the infographic as a class or in groups of two to four per computer. Prompt discussion with the following questions:

● How is this information similar to/different from what we found out about our area?

● What do you think “average” costs mean for California? Could there be some places in California that are more or less expensive?

● (For those students who live in California) How do you think our area compares to the rest of the state?

**Activity Extension:** Have students use the “living wage calculator” component of the infographic to compare their findings with costs that economists have determined for their local area and state.

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Is it time for a raise in America? The hotly debated question of whether or not the federal government should raise the minimum wage has reached Congress once again. In the meantime, many states and cities have taken the issue into their own hands by setting their own minimum wage. But what does raising the minimum wage really mean? Check out this engaging interactive explainer, produced by Newsbound, on KQED’s The Lowdown that takes a closer look into the history of the minimum wage, arguments for and against the issue, how states have addressed it and much more.

California is home to a number of reservoirs and dams that provide water and power to surrounding cities and farms. However, as 2013 proved to be one of the driest years, the sources of water are not as plentiful as they have been in past years. KQED’s The Lowdown takes a closer look at how the drought impacted the level of water in reservoirs. Come and explore this interactive visualization, created by Bay Area web developer Victor Powell, that shows the changing water levels since 2010 in California’s 30-largest reservoirs such as Lake Shasta and Lake Berryessa.