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2007 Materials Development Institute

About Plinko
Plinko is a pricing game on the American television game show The Price Is Right. Debuting on January 3, 1983, it is played for a cash prize of up to $50,000, and uses small prizes. It is frequently said to be the most popular of all the pricing games, and host Bob Barker often suggested to a contestant that they ought to become excited when they see what game they were about to play.

On the game's first playing, Barker explained that the name "Plinko" came from the "plink" sound the chips made as they came down the board. It is possible that the game's extreme similarity to the Japanese game of pachinko also played some role in the name's origin.

One at a time, the contestant lays each Plinko chip against the top of the board and releases it to drop down the board. The chips bounce randomly off the pegs, making it virtually impossible to predict where the chips will land. In addition, the sides of the board are in a zig-zag pattern which also allows the chips to ricochet back to the center more quickly. The contestant wins whatever money corresponds with the slot the chip lands in, with a running total kept on a scoreboard next to the Plinko board.

Questions to think about (each group will present their findings)

  • What do you notice as you "drop" the chips?
  • Can you predict a way to win more?
  • Is there any rhyme or reason behind the value of each "bucket?"
  • What are the mathematical ideas behind the game?
  • What other related mathematical ideas might you like to explore with this game?
  • In what ways could you extend the game?

© 2016 The Math Forum at Drexel, part of NSF's NSDL
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DUE-0226284. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.