Mathematical Explorations of the People’s Design Award

By Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, October 3, 2007

Grade Level

  • Middle School


  • People's Design Award

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics

Lesson Time

Two or three fifty-minute class periods


The People’s Design Award, which is hosted each year by Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and sponsored by Target, gives the general public an opportunity to nominate and vote for their favorite designs. In this lesson, students will conduct surveys using nominees from the People’s Design Award, analyze data, and present the results using a pictorial representation. Students will then design their own contest and mathematically determine a contest winner.

National Standards

Common Core Literacy for Other Subjects
Grades 6-8
Grades 6-8
Common Core Mathematics 6-8
Grade 7
Working With Others
Thinking & Reasoning


Students will do the following:
  • gather data
  • graph collected data
  • design an original contest
  • create a presentation
  • host a class contest



  • Computer with internet access
  • Rulers
  • Classroom supplies: markers, colored pencils, paper


Building Background
State-by-State Graphs The purpose of this activity is to provide an opportunity for students to graph data.
  1. As a class, visit the most recent People’s Design Award website. The 2013 People's Design Award website is at
  2. Divide the class into pairs. Ask each group to research the nominees by state and create a graph of their data. Ask for volunteers to share their graphs.
Steps for Learning
Activity One: The People’s Choice The purpose of this activity is to give students an opportunity to collect and analyze data.
  1. Divide the class into pairs. Ask the students to visit the most recent People’s Design Award website. The 2013 People's Design Award website is at
  2. Provide each group with printed copies of the nominees and their designs' descriptions and a copy of the “And the Winner is…” handout.
  3. Tell the students to ask people of varied age ranges to look at their printed pages of nominees, and vote for their favorite nominee. Tell the students to ask each voter the reason for his or her choice, and record the reasons on the back of the handout.
  4. After the students are finished with the surveys, ask them to complete all sections of the handout to determine the winning nominee based on the votes they collected.
Activity Two: Design a Contest The purpose of this activity is to provide students with an opportunity to create an original contest where the winner can be mathematically determined.
  1. Divide the class into small groups. Give each group a copy of the “Design a Contest” handout and allow each group time to complete it.
  2. Provide time for each group to present its design plan to the class. When the presentations are complete, ask the students to vote for the contest they would most like to participate in. Determine the winner mathematically, by identifying the top vote-getter.
  3. Allow time for the winning contest to take place. Collect data during the contest. Ask each student to graphically represent the data and determine the contest winner.


Create a class rubric with your students that will help them understand the effectiveness of their work. Use the following guidelines to help create the rubric.
  • Rate the effectiveness of your presentation in conveying your ideas about the contest.
  • Rate how well your group was able to collaborate.
  • Rate how well your group described the contest criteria.
  • Rate how well your group designed a contest that was applicable to the class.
  • Rate how well your group established the way to determine the winner.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Ask students to compare the People’s Design Award contest with a sporting event, such as a basketball game. Have them describe how the contests are the same, and how they are different. Lead a class discussion on how math is present in both types of contests, and how opinions are presented in both contests.

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