Q&A #1722

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Teaching probability and statistics

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From: Mark <kram247@msn.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2008072013:32:47
Subject: Make it Fun!

	I teach a unit on probability to 5th graders who are in a 6th grade
math program called Connected Math.  by the time we get to this unit,
they have a fairly good understanding of fractions, decimals, and
percentages.  Our initial lesson comes with a story scenario about a
boy who wants to eat a chocolate sugar coated cereal every morning vs
his mother who wants him to eat "Health Nut Flakes."  He bets his
mother that if they flip a coin and it comes up heads, he gets what he
wants.  If it comes up tails, he will eat the healthy cereal.  They
decide to do this for thirty days and use a June calendar to record
who gets what they want each day.  As student flip the coin they
record H or T on the calendar.  Below the calendar there is a place
that notes the day number and below that is a box where the student
records a cumulative # for only heads and below that the percentage
acheived thus far.  For instance if after three days of coin flipping
2 heads have been attained under day three you record the fraction 2/3
(two out of three)and below that convert it into a decimal # (0.666)
and then below that a percentage 67%.  If you are working with a
class, before you begin, you can ask each pair of pupils to predict
how many times out of thrity head will appear.  Many will say 15, and
ask why.  Hopefully, you hear because there are only two sides of a
fair coin, and half of 30 is 15.  Also, consciously use the key
probability term equally likely.  When all pairs of pupils are done
collecting data, post all the final percentages.  The majority of
percentages often winds up within a 10 - 15& ranage + or - of 50%.  If
you do the data collection on an overhead with a line graph it makes
an excellent visual presentation.  In the past few years, I have
followed this up with using the Deal or No Deal TV game show to show
them how the probability is stacked in favor of the show, and how
anyone who reaches $100,000 should take the money run.  Also, I let
the kids make spinners using a cardstock template, brass paper
fastener, and a paper clip.  Some spinners have equal sized sections,
but more than one of these sections may be labeled with a specific
picture/icon or number.  Have them determine the probability, predict
and test it.  Another fun one is using a brown paper bag, three
different colored disks or cubes, have a different number of each
color in the bag, and ask the kids to predict what color they will
pull not knowing the number of each. Do this numerous times and record
all outcomes.  Then ask them to predict which color has the most, and
least, and in between. Then tell them the number of each color vs the
total number.  Now they can create the odds (fraction- out of and the
percentage)or probability.  If you can get a hold of a carnival or
real roulette wheel you can take it one step further in making a real
world connection.  Good luck & have fun.

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