The Mathiness of Truthiness
Using math to unpack the assumptions we make about the world

In the Mathiness of Truthiness, students study the ways that journalists use data to tell stories with varying degrees of integrity. Then, they collect their own original data, study it, and produce their own newspapers and magazines, being as true as possible to the stories they finds in their data. 

Academic skills & content: Bivariate statistics, trend-lines, correlation, r-squared values, and residuals.

Final product: Student groups publish magazines and newspapers with articles, graphs, and infographics derived from data gathered in their original research.

Suggested duration: 2 to 4 weeks.



Created with the support of the California Department of Education California Career Pathways Trust

Launching the project
Launching the project
Getting students to think about data like journalists

In the Project Launch of The Mathiness of Truthiness, students examine news stories that use—or, even misrepresent—data. They study how the data is manipulated, and then use similar data to write their own biased news headlines.

At the start of class, the class follows the “Notice-Wonder” protocol. You can find a copy of the protocol below.

Mathematical critique of the local news article
Mathematical critique of the local news article
Students “run the numbers” on their peers’ articles to make sure their stories match the data they collected

This video shows a newspaper article critique. What makes this critique distinctive is that the students take the raw data that their peers have used as the basis for their article, and analyze it themselves, then checks to make sure the “story” that the article tells is backed up by the data.


The Mathiness of Truthiness Project was a semester-long interdisciplinary project combining Humanities, Physics, and Math, and the culminating exhibition included products created for all three classes.

In this video, you’ll see how the students’ news articles and statistical analysis fit into the larger project exhibition.


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