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States spend a lot of money on education. They also spend a lot on law enforcement. But are they spending their money wisely…and how much should they be spending in the first place?

In this lesson, students draw histograms to explore state spending habits on schools and on police. Using median and mean, they come up with a measure of “typical” spending habits, and also look at how spending totals compare to spending per citizen. Finally, students examine possible effects of state spending decisions, and discuss how much they think states should allocate to schools and police departments.

Students will

  • Sketch a histogram of state spending on law enforcement
  • Compare state spending on law enforcement to state spending on schools
  • Calculate what a “typical” state spends on schools and police
  • Examine how much states spend on schools and police per citizen, including what’s “typical”
  • Discuss the relationship between school spending and high school graduation rates, and between police spending and crime rates
  • Discuss how much states should spend on schools and police

Before you begin

Students should have some experience drawing and interpreting histograms, and should know how to calculate the mean and the median of a set of data. The last question requires students to interpret two scatterplots, though prior knowledge of scatterplots isn’t required.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices