Q33: Who does a member of the federal House of Representatives represent? 

A. All of the people in their home city 
B. All of the people who voted for them 
C. All of the people in the country 
D. Citizens in their congressional district

Q34: Who elects members of the federal House of Representatives? 

A. Every individual over 18 residing in their state 
B. Citizens from their congressional district 
C. The Governor of their state
D. The state legislature of their state 

Q35: Why do some states have more Representatives than other states? 

A. Some states are closer to Washington, D.C., than other states. 
B. Some states are older than other states. 
C. Larger populations need more representation than smaller populations. 
D. Some states are bigger geographically than others. 

Question Background Information


Unlike the Senate, which represents the states and their citizens, the House of Representatives aims to represent the people and public opinion more directly, and thus the number of representatives given to each state is based on population.

Thus, states with more people (a larger population) have more Representatives than other, less populous states. Thus, California receives 53 representatives and Texas 36, while smaller states like Wyoming or Vermont each have only one. While the number of senators each state has will not change, the number of representatives each state has will. The U.S. Census, which is taken every ten years, determines whether or not a state’s number of districts, and thus representatives, will change. 

As has been true since the Constitution went into effect the citizens of the various congressional districts select, and are represented by, their members of Congress. But what these districts look like, and how large they are, has changed over time. 

On April 14, 1792, President George Washington signed the Apportionment Act of 1792, which set the number of representatives at 105. Reaching that point wasn’t easy, though. Washington had vetoed the first version of the bill, holding that its math was unconstitutional. 

According to Washington, the original attempt resulted in the inability to adhere to the “one representative per 30,000 constituents” as defined by the Constitution. He signed the second version of the bill, which changed the representation ratio to one representative to 33,000 constituents. Hence the 105.

Fast forward 119 years and 11 other Apportionment Acts and it’s 1911, where the cap is set at 435. In the decades since, the number has remained the same. The only change is how the seats are allotted after each national census.

Additional Content

Offline Activity


Numbers may be numbers, but being able to look at the logic behind them is important. By thinking about where numbers come from, the students will be able to practice their critical thinking skills. In this activity, the students will read about the apportionment acts, then complete a 3-2-1 worksheet that asks them to look at the facts, to formulate questions, and to form an opinion.


  • Provide each group with a copy of the Apportionment Acts. 
  • Provide each group with the 3-2-1 Worksheet.  
  • A rubric is available if this is a graded activity.  

Required files

The Teaching Materials for this exercise includes a rubric.

Teaching Materials.


  1. This activity works well as an individual assignment. However, depending on the age and/or skills level of the students, you may want to have them work in pairs.
    • If that is the case, divide the class into pairs based on the students’ individual levels. Group A is the group that needs some extra support. Group B is the core group that has the core knowledge to complete the activity. Group C is the enrichment group who have mastered the material and are prepared to extend their knowledge. Pair those who need support (Group A) with those who have core knowledge and/or have mastered the material (Groups B and C).
  2. Explain to the students that today they are going to read about the Apportionment Act of 1911, which changed the number of representatives to 435.
    • There are three sections to the reading. The first two are the 
      Apportionment Acts of 1792 and 1911. The third, “Methods of Apportionment” consists of the four different mathematical approaches used to calculate the number of representatives. The four methods are best suited for students with a solid understanding of math. For younger classes or those where you do not wish to focus on the method, simply omit the third section from the handout. 
  3. After they complete the reading, they will fill out a 3-2-1 Worksheet where they write down three facts that they learned, two questions that they have, and one opinion about the topic.
  4. Circulate throughout the room to help students as needed.
  5. If you wish, once the students complete the worksheet, use it as a springboard into a class discussion.

Note: ​You may wish to work with the math teacher(s) to create an interdisciplinary unit. 

Discussion Prompts

Below are two discussion prompts that can be used by teachers in a classroom setting.

  • The first discussion prompt will be one that is designed to support students that are not really understanding the content in a way that would help them to answer the test question.
  • The second discussion prompt will be one that is designed to further student understanding of the content by making real-world connections, including connections to current events, and historical events. 


Originally, Congress had to act to apportion representatives after each census, but legislation in 1940 made apportionment automatic based on a fixed formula.

Prompt 1

According to the Constitution, it is vital that the people have a voice in the federal government, and they made the House of Representatives the primary and most direct institution to convey this voice. Who chooses the members of the House of Representatives?  Why do some states have more representatives than others? Do you think that this is a good idea? 

Prompt 2

Every state is guaranteed at least one representative, regardless of population. Think about the state that you live in. How many representatives does your state have? Do you think that one representative is reasonable for the less populous states or do you think that every state should have at least two or three? Why? How does your experience affect your opinion?