Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Life on the Campaign Trail

Systems of Equations

Amber Stokes, Brittany VanCleave, Mariah Warren, Mariah Warren | Published: November 3rd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 8th, 9th
  • Subject Subject Mathematics
  • Course Course Algebra 1
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3-4 class period(s)
  • Duration More 180 minutes


This lesson will teach students about solving systems of linear equations by focusing on variables that play a role in political campaign management. Students will experience the connection between algebra and careers through a virtual “Career Zoom” interview with a campaign manager, then create their own campaign plan for their own candidacy or a partner's. This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning. Resources for use in Google Classroom are included.

Essential Question(s)

How can we use systems of equations to solve real-world problems? Objectives: Students will be able to use investigation to determine the variables that influence the success of a campaign, use various methods to solve systems of equations involving campaigns (e.g., graphing, substitution, and elimination), and formulate a connection between the use of math and the duties of campaign managers, as well as other career paths that require a similar skill set.



Students use the Zoom web application to interview a political campaign manager and discuss different aspects of the job, including budgeting for the candidate’s campaign.


Students research the variables that contribute to building a successful campaign.


As a class, students discuss and identify the variables that are most influential in building a successful campaign. Students create equations based on their research regarding the average costs of ads and community forums. Students use graphing, substitution, and elimination to solve and discuss the systems of equations they created.


Students create a campaign plan promoting a candidate for a school election.


Students present their campaign materials to a partner classroom via Zoom. The partner classroom votes to elect the candidate who has the most effective campaign.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Student devices with internet access

  • Career Zoom handout (attached, one per student)

  • Campaign Research Organizer handout (attached, one per student)

  • Campaign Rubric handout (attached, one per pair of students)

  • KWL Chart (attached, one per student)


Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Begin with the lesson title and essential question on slide 1, then the lesson objectives on slide 2. Distribute a copy of the attached KWL Chart to each student. Transition to slide 3 and introduce students to a modified KWHL Graphic Organizer strategy to activate prior knowledge about the duties of a campaign manager. Ask students to complete the K and W columns by answering the questions on the slide: What do you KNOW about a campaign manager? What do you WANT to know about a campaign manager? (The L column will be completed after the Zoom call or video.)

Pass out the attached Career Zoom handout and move to to slide 4 to begin the Zoom meeting. Ask students to record details from the interview on their handouts. Once ready, Zoom into the meeting with the campaign manager. Allow the campaign manager to introduce themselves, inform students about the educational background required for the career, and explain their job. When the campaign manager is finished providing some background, allow students to pose their prepared questions. If necessary, guide the conversation towards learning the key components of a campaign manager’s job and what factors are important for success in a political campaign. Below are example questions for this purpose:

  • What do you do as a campaign manager?

  • How are math skills incorporated in your day-to-day job description?

  • What education is needed in order to be successful in your role?

  • What key components go into a successful campaign?

Go to slide 6. After the Zoom call or watching the "How to Run a Smart Campaign" video, invite students to complete the L portion of their KWL charts. Lead a class discussion over the key details that students learned.


Go to slide 7. Distribute the attached Campaign Research Organizer Handout. Have students research the important components of a successful political campaign based on the information provided by the campaign manager. Ask students to research why each component is important to the campaign, the average cost of each component, how other candidates have used each component, whether each component should be performed digitally, physically, or both, and any other relevant factors.


Go to slide 8. Using the Inverted Pyramid strategy, ask students to pair up and discuss their research findings. Students should discuss what their ideas have in common, what is different, and what components are important to a successful campaign, among other things. After a few minutes of discussion time, have each pair join up with another pair to discuss further. For the final round of discussion, bring the whole class together. As a class, pick out 3–4 components that groups have agreed on and that can be represented virtually and physically in a campaign. These components will be used later to create a system of equations.

At this stage, students should begin to understand the connections between campaign components. Have students choose both virtual and physical components to build a campaign budget. Give students an arbitrary maximum amount they can spend on the campaign. Have a conversation about how their campaign components will be represented as two different variables in an equation. For example, the x-variable represents advertising (e.g., billboard, newspaper, social media, etc.), and the y-variable represents community forums (e.g., TV interviews, town hall meetings, YouTube speeches, etc.). Once the variables are established, ask students to create two equations: a first equation to represent the virtual components of the campaign, and a second equation to represent the physical components of the campaign. Move to slide 9 to show an outline of how the components and equations should be organized. Display this slide for the students as they create their equations.

Go to slide 10. Have students use the Flipgrid you created to explain what components they researched and how they created their equations. Next, ask each student to watch two additional videos from their peers to compare their equation with their peers’ equation. This will give students the opportunity to brainstorm how to use these equations to solve problems.

Foster a discussion centered on students’ reflections on the Flipgrid activity. Then, introduce three different ways to solve an equation: substitution, elimination, and graphing. Ask students to collectively determine the best way to solve for different variables. Begin by showing slide 11, which includes examples of solving systems using each of the three methods mentioned above. The following three slides contain challenge questions to demonstrate each method.


Go to slide 17. Now, invite students to play the role of a campaign manager for their own school election. Have students partner up and create their own campaign plan to promote themselves or their partner as a candidate. The campaign plan should include equations and variables to fit an election in their school. As a whole class, ask students to determine how much money should be allocated, which variables they will be using, and the cost of each variable. For example, variables could include a video speech, a social media ad, a podcast interview, a Canva brochure, a blog, posters, etc. Students should ensure there are enough variables to create both a physical and a virtual equation, as they did previously.

Have students create a presentation that can be shared digitally with another classroom. Presentations can be formatted as Google Slides, a Google Site, a Prezi, or any shareable format they are comfortable using.


Move to slide 18. Invite each pair of students to launch their campaign with the materials they've created. Use Zoom to connect with your partner classroom and invite each team to present their campaign strategy and materials. Depending on your classroom needs, you may want every group to present, or you may have only certain groups present. In turn, be sure to watch your partner classroom's presentations. After watching your partner classroom's presentations, discuss the campaign strategies and materials used.

After discussion, hold a final rally via Zoom in which your classroom's candidates debate against other candidates in the classroom, answer questions their "constituents" may have, listen to feedback on how they spent their money based on their systems of equations, and reflect on the experience as a whole. View your partner classroom's debate, as well. At the conclusion of the rally, ask your partner class to vote for their choice of the best candidate from your classroom and vice versa. After voting is complete, share the results with your partner class.