City Digits: Local Lotto

It’s no secret that it’s almost impossible to win the lottery. But why do thousands of New Yorkers still buy tickets? Who’s benefitting from their ticket purchases and what are the real chances of striking it rich with a scratch-off?

To understand the math behind the odds, students from Lauren Shookoff’s advisory group at the Brooklyn School for Social Justice in Bushwick worked with CUP, Teaching Artist José Ojeda, MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab, and CUNY’s Brooklyn College to find out about the lottery in their neighborhood.

Toting tablets equipped with mapping software developed just for this project, students interviewed lotto players and retailers in their neighborhood about their playing habits, and recorded their answers with photos and audio. Back in the classroom they compared their on-the-street journalism data with an interactive map visualizing which neighborhoods are spending the most on the lotto in the whole city. They took their multimedia data, lottery ads, sketches, notes, and interviews, and created a digital tour explaining how they came to form their own opinions on the lottery.

Check out the digital maps and tours here!

What people said about City Digits

“I see that everything is truly connected to the government and math can help us to stay away from losing our money.”  — City Digits student

“I see the city differently now because because I never knew how much people were spending on the lottery and how it really works.” — City Digits student

“I personally feel that the lottery is a scam because it looks like it impacts our community but the results are the opposite.”
— City Digits student

Resources & Links

MIT’S Civic Data Design Lab works with data to understand it for public good.

Brooklyn College is an integral part of the civic, urban and artistic energy of New York and uses the entire city as a living classroom that broadens our students’ understanding of the world around them.

The Brooklyn School for Social Justice (BSSJ) is a small public high school in the neighborhood of Bushwick, one of four schools currently occupying the Bushwick Campus.

Funding Support

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1222430.

Special Thanks

Alex Cristando, Soledad Fernandez, Phiola McFarlane, Mathew Sullivan


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Jose Ojeda
  • Project Leads
  • Valeria Mogilevich
  • Pema Domingo-Barker
  • Project Support
  • Christine Gaspar
  • Sam Holleran
  • Brooklyn School for Social Justice
  • Classroom Teacher
  • Lauren Shookoff
  • MIT Civic Data Design Lab
  • Director
  • Sarah Williams

  • Research Assistant
  • Erica Deahl
  • CUNY Brooklyn College
  • Associate Professor
  • Laurie Rubel
  • Research Assistant
  • Vivian Lim