I’ve talked some about Probability and I’m sharing a couple of simple ways to explore probability with your students. While you not be able to get exact answers, these are great ways to test out how probability really works, and whether what is “supposed” to happen actually does.

So you know Jackpot. It’s a Holiday classic on the Country station here, and super easy to simulate.

Listeners call in and the nth caller gets to guess how much is in the Jackpot. If you guess the exact amount, you win. Otherwise they tell you if you’re too high or low. There’s several times a day you can call in, and the idea is that listeners are keeping track at home.

Here’s how I run it in my class:

- Everyone write down a number between 0 and 1000.
- Choose someone to make a guess.
- Say, “Sorry ____, thats too low/high” in your best cheesy gameshowhostvoice.
- Get your Vanna White up to the board. All you actually need to know is how many guesses have been made, but its more fun to have them write the amount too (someone may even catch that it would be helpful to record if its too high or low, but I never point that one out).
- Continue calling students for guesses.
- Once you finally get it, have Vanna record the # guesses and winning total. Even the winner if you want.
- Tell them all to write down a new guess, then repeat the above.
- Hopefully by the next round they realize its totally pointless to write down an initial guess; they should be revising as they go.
- Then split them into groups of 3-4, and show them how to use randint on their calculators.

There are a couple places you could go with this:

- Have them go from 1000 to 10000 and see how many more guesses it will take
- Make a class dotplot or other representation of how many guesses it took
- Tell them you plan on doing this in an upcoming assembly but they can pay you off to get to guess at a certain time. Think about it on your own first, then talk it over with your partner. Discuss as a class why they picked that number of guesses. (Some kids will want to guess 5th to make sure they ALWAYS get a guess, others will want to go 10th because if it does get to them they feel they’re likely to get it.)
- See if any groups can figure out how to make an optimal number of guesses.

This is pretty informal, but my kids love it and it gets them thinking about how the same situation doesn’t mean every detail is identical.

What are some fun ways you have to get kids thinking about probability?