Discussion:  All in Probability & Statistics 
Topic:  Cliff Hanger Tool 
Related Item:  http://mathforum.org/mathtools/tool/804/ 
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Subject:  Cliff Hanger Tool 
Author:  Julee 
Date:  May 3 2004 
http://www.mste.uiuc.edu/activity/cliff/
This is a very catchy tool for students that I first saw several summers ago
while taking another course at the University of Illinois. It is catchy becuase
Homer Simpson is in danger of flying over a cliff.
It helps to dispell some myths about probability in that students think that
since the probability of moving forward is 1/3, the probability for going over
the cliff will be the same. The tool keeps track of the total number of wins
and losses so one can calculate the simulated probability of losing very easily.
It also shows how many steps in each direction that Homer takes, which is close
to the 1/3 value in the forward direction.
This applet is a good tool for showing students the difference between simulated
probabilities vs. calculated probabilties and that random events can have very
chaotic outcomes.
There is a link to another tool on this website for collecting even more data
about Homer's steps.
http://www.mste.uiuc.edu/activity/cliff/solution.html
This tool keeps track of many outcomes to allow analysis using the law of large
numbers. It would take too long with the original applet to gather a lot of
data because the user must watch Homer take each step.
However, it would be nice if the user could keep compiling more data with this
bonus tool. I love that the user can look at probabilities other than 1/3. I
was shocked by the results for 1/2.
Julee Lee
 
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