Playing with Probability Lesson
Playing with Probability Lesson Plan
Students learn how to calculate both theoretical and experimental probability
by rotating through a series of work stations.
Standards (NCTM 3-5)
Number and Operation
Understand numbers, ways of representing numbers, relationships among numbers,
and number systems
Data Analysis and Probability
Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display
relevant data to answer them
- recognize and generate equivalent forms of commonly used fractions, decimals, and percents;
Understand and apply basic concepts of probability
- collect data using observations, surveys, and experiments;
- represent data using tables and graphs such as line plots, bar graphs, and line graphs;
Students must be able to:
- describe events as likely or unlikely and discuss the degree of likelihood using such
words as certain, equally likely, and impossible;
- predict the probability of outcomes of simple experiments and test the predictions;
- understand that the measure of the likelihood of an event can be represented by a
number from 0 to 1.
Teacher will need:
- perform basic mouse manipulations such as point,
click and drag.
- use a browser such as Netscape for experimenting with
This is a list of materials assuming that you will only need 6 stations.
You can set up more than one of each station if needed.
- Have enough stations so that each pair of students can be working at
an individual station. (You may want to have multiples of each station
because some stations take longer to complete than others.)
Students will need:
- 2 race boards and 4 race cars
- 8 dice
- 2 pieces of paper numbered 1- 12
- 10 square pieces of paper or 10 poker chips
- an opaque bag
- 15 white marbles
- 5 red marbles
- a spinner
- 3 index cards (a mole drawn on the reverse of one card)
- 2 pennies
- a deck of playing cards
- access to a browser.
- Focus and Review
Introduce the idea of probability through a discussion about something
similar to the lottery.
Students will be able to calculate both experimental and theoretical probabilities
as well as display probabilities in both graphical and fraction form.
- Guided Practice
- Work through an example work station with the students.
- Fill out the appropriate section on the data collection sheet
with the class.
- Teacher Input
- Explain the procedure to be followed at each station.
- Explain that experimental probability is the actual results gathered
by doing the experiment several times.
- Describe to the students how to calculate theoretical probability.
- Put the students into pairs.
- Have the students work through the stations allowing 5 minutes for each
- Independent Practice
- Have students rotate between the stations and complete their data collection sheet.
- You may also want to have a computer station set up for the students to
work with several probability applets that model some of the activities
at the various stations.
Some appropriate applets are:
- Have each group share the experimental data they collected from one
experiment. Ask them if the experimental probability they calculated is
the same as the theoretical probability.
- Reinforce the concepts of theoretical verses experimental probability.
- Compile the class' data for all the experiments and compare the individual
group experimental results to the collective class results. The compiled class
results should be closer to the theoretical probability than most individual
- Discuss why this is so.
- Discuss why computers might be helpful when working with probability experiments.
Please use this form for questions and comments about this project.
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