Author Archives: Matthew Green

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.

Shopping Math: Percentages and Discounts Explained in Three Animated Videos

Includes animated videos

If you find yourself doing some frantic, last minute holiday shopping this weekend, you’re likely to run head-first into a stew of math.

Take that $130 pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. Let’s say Macy’s just marked it down 20%. And on top of that, you’ve got a coupon for 10% off your entire purchase. So, you’re looking at a sweet discount of 10% off 20% off $130.

So … how much are those shoes going to cost you?

From sports to the news, to — most importantly — shopping, percentages are hard to avoid. To help make sense of it all, animator-explainer extraordinaire Josh Kurz breaks down the basic math behind everyday percentage conundrums (including the answer to this question).

Part I: The Basics

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A History of Tension: 50 Years of U.S.-Cuba Relations [Interactive Timeline]

Courtesy of the Center on Foreign Relations

Break out the cigars (the good ones)!

The United States will restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, ending 50 years of Cold War hostilities between the two nations, President Obama announced Wednesday. The news comes after the release of an American aid worker who had been held in a Cuban prison for the last five years on charges of espionage. It was part of a deal negotiated over 18 months of secret talks between the two nations, and with the support of Pope Francis.

In a recent telephone call, Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed to play nice. As part of the deal, Obama will use his executive authority to ease restrictions on Cuban travel and trade, and establish an embassy in Havana. Although the president lacks the power to completely end the 50-year trade embargo with Cuba (doing so requires an act of Congress), these actions are big step in that direction.

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California Student Editorial Cartoon Contest: And the Winners Are …

This fall, high school students across California created and submitted editorial cartoons in a contest that included schools from Chula Vista in the south to Ukiah in the north. Entries could apply to one of three categories: elections, higher education and nutrition. The contest was organized by the LegiSchool Project, a civic education collaboration between California State University, Sacramento and the State Legislature, which has also recently partnered with The Lowdown. Winners receive a cash prize and a claim to fame by being published, well, right here!

Grand Prize Winner

Allison Goldsmith

Culver City High School, 10th Grade


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Everything You Wanted To Know About Grand Juries (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Confused about grand juries? You’re probably not alone.

A New York grand jury in early December voted to not criminally charge a white police officer in the choking death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man. The decision came just 10 days after a Missouri grand jury declined to charge Darren Wilson, also a white police officer, in the shooting death of Michael Brown — also an unarmed black man. Both decisions stoked outrage and protests in New York and Ferguson, Missouri, where the respective deaths occurred, and there have been continued protests in other cities across the nation, including Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco.

In the tsunami of media reports and analysis following the two decisions, reporters and commentators have dropped legalese like it’s a universally understood dialect (and yes, I recognize the irony of using the word “legalese,” which is itself kind of legalese). Truth is, the law can be super complicated and obscure, and — speaking for myself here — a lot of legal terms and procedures that we news folk are wont to use aren’t always so frequently understood.
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Why California’s Drought is America’s Problem

Despite a few recent downpours, California remains stuck in one of the most severe statewide droughts on record.

But it’s far from just California’s problem. The state produces a huge percentage of the nation’s agriculture — nearly half of all fruits, vegetables and nuts, by some estimates. And that requires a massive amount of water: farms here use about 80 percent of the state’s developed water supply.

Much is riding on the upcoming rainy season. Because if not enough water remains valuable for farmers to adequately irrigate their land, the impact will likely be felt far beyond the state’s borders.
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Is Immigration Reform on the Horizon? [Animated Explainer]

Remember when U.S. immigration reform seemed like it was finally in the cards?

That was so 2013.

The brief burst of fanfare following passage of the Senate’s comprehensive bill last year faded quickly when the debate hit the bitterly divided House, where prospects for getting anything done have now been all but extinguished.

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On the Rise: How Minimum Wage Hikes Won Big with Voters [Interactive]

(View mobile version here)

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama urged Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, which has wallowed at $7.25 since 2007. But Congress didn’t budge, sidestepping the issue that has long been staunchly opposed by the Republican leadership.

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How Felon Voting Laws Could Impact Today’s Election [Map and Infographic]

The map below, created by designer/programmer Lewis Lehe, shows state-by-state felon voting laws and population impacts as reported by the The Sentencing Project, based on 2010 data. Note: among the states that deny voting rights to some felons who have completed the entirety of their sentences (including parole), restrictions vary significantly, and often depend on the severity of the crime.

[See article and infographic below map]

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Bay Area Ballot Measures Relevant to Young Folks: A Youth Radio Prop Guide

Includes interactive youth voter guide

youthVoting for the first time can be exciting, empowering and — if you head to the polls without doing your homework — downright daunting. That’s especially true in California, where voters are typically asked to weigh in on a litany of issues and candidates for both statewide and local races.

Next week’s midterm election on November 4 is no exception: the ballot is thick and dense, with lots of contests that can seem pretty obscure or just plain irrelevant, particularly for young voters. Continue reading