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How should police departments address excessive use of force? A number of high-profile cases have painted a disturbing picture of how police officers treat the people they’re supposed to keep safe.

In this lesson, students compare the distributions of excessive force of two police departments and explore how the shape of the distribution affects the effectiveness of different solution attempts.

Students will

  • Given a graphical display of univariate data, use the mean, median, and mode to describe the “typical” case
  • Analyze and interpret graphical displays of univariate data to answer multi-step problems
  • Compare a normal vs. power law distribution, and understand how the shape of a distribution affects real-world policy

Before you begin

Students should be able to calculate and use percentages. They will need to read and make sense of a histogram throughout this lesson, but those skills can still be developing at the onset.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


This American Life, Malcolm Gladwell