Teaching Probability Hands-On

If you haven’t already, you will find that students love doing things more than just sitting in desks. Well, most of them do. Probability was a difficult concept to teach to students sitting in desks. To engage them more, I created the concept of a student carnival. The idea behind the lesson (which took about a week – so, maybe more of a project) was that students would create their own carnival games, determine the theoretical probability of winning and losing, and then budget their prizes based on that calculation. Then, they’d have other students actually play their games, keep track of the experimental probability, and then analyze the differences and report their findings. I used this as a culminating assessment project. Students had already been taught (and practiced) the concepts of theoretical and experimental probability. So I allowed students 2 days to design their games and ready their “stand.” I let them work in groups of 2-3, but depending on class size, I would have adjusted it. Then on day 3, half the class ran their games and the other half got to play. Day 4 they switched. On day 5, the groups got back together and analyzed their data, wrote their reports, and turned them in. The students loved it. I think if I were to do it again, I would add in a business/budget component. I’d provide prizes that students could actually award if the players won the carnival game, but each group would owe me for what they took. So then they’d have to calculate how much to charge per person to play the game so they could cover the cost of the prizes they’d award but also stay low enough to entice students to play the game. Then I’d give the playing students tokens so they could play the games. I’d love to see how students did in terms of revenue and popularity. It would definitely be an interesting addition in the report, as well, seeing what student would change about their games to make them more interesting, more or less challenging, etc. Anyway, authentic learning activities like this one are great ways to engage students and help them internalize concepts and skills. I even included a “skill and drill” packet for the 1-2 students in each class who inevitably couldn’t handle the activity and would lose the privilege of being part of the group. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, head over to my TpT store and check it out.

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Theoretical & Experimental Probability Project