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Topic:  Directable Fire!! Tool 
Related Item:  http://mathforum.org/mathtools/tool/2970/ 
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Subject:  Directable Fire!! Tool 
Author:  Julee 
Date:  Feb 8 2004 
I was exploring the Directable Fire!! tool and liked many aspects of it. The
user of the tool can program the probabilities for all 8 directions around a
tree on fire to indicate the likelyhood that a nearby tree will also catch on
fire.
The author of the program made a worksheet for students to "set fires" with
various probabilities and record the percentage of the entire forrest that
burned. For these experiments the students set each of the eight probabilities
to the same prescribed value.
I would also encourage students to describe a fire for classmates to determine
probabilies which can produce that fire. For example, I might have students set
a fire that burned every tree north of the starter tree and no others. This
will solidify the ideas of a probability of 1 and 0 for the various directions.
I would also encourage students to find probabilities where several trees burned
in a certain direction, but not always. Having students describe fires to each
other without a using the picture enhances communication skills. Further,
students will find there are several ways to produce a certain fires some of the
time. Perhaps some probabilities will give the disired results more of the
time.
I think this program is a wonderful tool to demonstrate the chaotic nature of
probability, which was one of the authors purposes.
I also looked at the followup program which more accurately simulates forest
fires but liked the user inputs for the probabilites in the more basic program
for classroom purposes. It is nice to be able to discuss why the second version
is more realistic (but not really as possible to manipulate for
exploration.)
Julee Lee
 
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