Introducing Probability

I am busy planning for my Year 9 class tomorrow. I am pondering: “How best to introduce Probability?”

I want to know what the students already know, so I will attempt doing a concept map. I don’t expect it to turn out as sophisticated as Kate’s. Her Probability concept map from her excellent blog – Optimizing Kinetic Energy – is shown below.

I really like the well written and set out learning objectives by the UK Department of Education. As well you can click links to excellent PDF files to exemplify these standards.

The first Year 7 objective is: “use vocabulary and ideas of probability, drawing on experience“. It will be interesting to see what mathematical vocabulary my students will use while brainstorming the concept map!

The second Year 7 objective is: “understand and use the probability scale from 0 to 1; find and justify probabilities based on equally likely outcomes in simple contexts; identify all the possible mutually exclusive outcomes of a single event“. Hopefully this will just be revision, but I will play that by ear and adjust by learning sequence accordingly.

Group Work

I am going to randomly split the class into groups of 3 or 4 using Team Maker. Will the students want to be Animals, Birds of Prey or Dinosaurs? The task I will set them is adapted from: “How large is Pennsylvania?

I have adapted this lesson to where my students live and so it is titled “HOW LARGE IS VICTORIA

To round off the lesson we will have groups report their findings. If their is time a game too, or a journal entry.

I also want to explore the issue of Problem Gambling, but that will have to wait until another lesson.

How do you teach the first lesson on probability to your classes?



About webmaths

I have been teaching Mathematics in Victorian secondary schools for 30 years. I use the www to make my maths lessons better. I hope this blog will give other teachers some ideas to try in their own classes.
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3 Responses to Introducing Probability

  1. A Earl says:

    I start my probability unit with a simple game. Partners take turns flipping 2 coins at a time. Partner A gets a point if they both land on heads, partner B gets a point if he gets one head and one tail. After about 10-20 flips, partner A starts complaining that the game is not fair. Thus begins our discussion of probability. I end the unit with students creating their own games, one fair and one unfair including all of the related mathematics. Parents play the games at Open House.

  2. Adam Bevan says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I know this comment is very late, it may be of use next year though. I want to comment anyway so I can subscribe by email to this site as I cannot see where to get the RSS feed.

    It was interesting to discover the origins of probability in Davis and Hersh’s book Descartes’ Dream. In its origins was the need to determine a fair stake of prize money from a coin tossing game. The idea of the game was to be the first to win six times, one person being heads and one tails. When the game gets unexpectedly interrupted with a player up 5-3, how should the $100 prize money be split? These type of questions could be used to introduce the concept of probability to the students. They can search for the fairest way to answer these questions. Who would win on average? This seemed to be the fairest method…..thus probability was born.

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