Teaching probability almost seems at odds to teaching math, especially when students are used to hearing there is only one right answer (which isn’t always the case, but that’s for another blog post). But probability is everywhere: the chance of tossing heads or tails, making a free throw in basketball, rolling the dice in a board game, grabbing out the perfect piece of candy from your halloween bag, or even the weather.
A fun way to introduce probability:
- Place ten blocks/cubes/chips into a bag, with only two colors, such as 8 green blocks, and two white blocks. Don’t let your students see what is in the bag, but tell them you have 10 green or white blocks in the bag.
- Have them list all the possibilities in the bag: 9 green, 1 white; 8 green, 2 white; etc.
- Have a student draw out one block from the bag without looking into the bag. Record the results on a tally chart.
- The student should return the block back into the bag.
- Have another student draw out a block, record the results, and then replace the block into the bag.
- Repeat about 10 times.
- Ask them to look at all the options they listed in step 2 above. Discuss what options are probably not likely and eliminate those choices. I make sure my students can explain why to eliminate an option and then the class votes whether to agree or disagree with a thumbs up or down.
- Repeat the drawing (steps 3 -5 above) another ten times, and then have another discussion to narrow down the choices to about 2-3.
- Reveal what is in the bag.
- Discuss what probability means and what words we use to describe it. Here is a good link for a simple chart to expand on. You can talk about fractions as well.
You can also have your students list probability that they see around them: dice, spinners, games, etc.
Here is a fun free online math game to try:
I also have a set of probability real life photo task cards that will help show examples of probability, and the set includes two worksheets (w/ answer keys), and a probability word chart (likely, less likely, equally likely, not likely, etc.).
– Evil Math Wizard