Teaching Quantitative Analysis in AP Government

I recently received an email from a first year AP GOPO teacher asking if I had any tips for teaching quantitative analysis.

I remember first seeing the words “quantitative analysis” when the changes were made the the AP curriculum, rolling my eyes, and thinking “Don’t students already know how to read a graph”

Narrator (I imagine Jon Meacham): No, Liz. They don’t. You have to TEACH them to read graphs, tables, charts, maps, infographics, etc just like you had to teach them how to write argumentative essays for your class.

Here is how I taught my students quantitative analysis that eventually lead to writing a FRQ


Resources: Pew Research Center – Personally, this website had everything I needed and to keep it simple, I stuck with what I knew. It has a great search feature and a lot of different graphs. Plus, it’s what College Board recommends.

For the sake of this post, I chose the most recent one about Congress. It has a short essay, a line graph, and a bar graph.

Warm-Up: Show student the following graph and ask the questions below.

Questions to consider (This is a great place to MODEL what you want them to do and to be in the think tank with them. This way, the data analysis becomes second nature to them and they are ready for any FRQ thrown their way)

In the CED, there are ready made questions for you on pages 153-154 if you want to go a different direction or further.

  1. What is the title? Why is that important? What is the date this was collected? What other information do we need? (see the note at the bottom of the graph)
  2. Review with them the x and y-axis and what those mean. Again, don’t assume they know what it means or what it is.
  3. What else do you notice? Are there times when there are dramatic spikes or trends? What conclusions can you draw?
  4. What is included? What is missing? What do you notice about that?
  5. What does the data in the chart imply about Congress, political parties, or elections?

Then, move to the second graph using the information you’ve gathered from the first. Do the same questions.

From there, explore the essay written if there is time and add to the information gathered from both of the charts. The essay has links to related graphs as well to help round out the research.

Remember, you are teaching them a skill. Take the time to set them up for success and you will soon notice they do it automatically or their questions go deeper. For example, when they see a news poll, they will ask questions about the accuracy of the poll or notice that it was only 1000 people.

Stick to the CED when teaching skills so it doesn’t become overwhelming

Teaching and reviewing the skill of quantitative analysis can be quick and easy. Take time to set them up for success and they will reap the benefits.

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