Compound probability is fun to teach because it lends itself to hands-on learning. I’ve found that students don’t even complain about the fact they they are working with fractions when they are doing compound probability. (shocking, right?!) I’m excited to share some of my favorite activities for practicing compound probability with you. These activities will build background for students, offer practice, and extend the concepts. I hope that you can find one or two ideas to implement in your classroom right away and engage your students in learning more about compound probability.
- Menu Toss-up
- Probability Bingo
- Real Life Tree Diagram
- Task Cards
- QR Code Game
- Scavenger Hunt
- Color by Answer
- Free Probability Tools
- Deal or No Deal?
- Pig: A Probability Experiment and other games
- Illustrative Mathematics-Sitting Across from Each Other
- Knockout Game to review compound probability for the whole
This short 50 second video called Menu Toss-up will give your students a brief introduction to the idea of different combinations. This video shows an example of compound probability related to a restaurant menu and the different combinations you can make. You can find it on PBS Learning. They even have an entire, detailed lesson plan going along with this video. It includes some great discussion questions to use with students.
I found this probability bingo activity on the Math Equals Love Blog. This activity turns bingo into a compound probability game. There are two dice with different letters on them and students have to use strategy to try and win the game. They are not trying to get 5 in a row, rather they are trying to fill-in all of the squares on their bingo card. This game has fun, strategy, and it will gives students an experience they can refer to for talking about compound probability.
So, I have these 16 x 24 inch whiteboards that I love. I’m always looking for ways to use them and sometimes crazy ideas come to my head. Recently, while thinking about my whiteboards, I was also looking for a way for my students to see what a tree diagram represented. And inspiration struck. The whiteboards are the perfect tool to use for students to get their hands dirty with tree diagrams. In this activity, students choose a situation and then with the board and some manipulatives they make a tree diagram. It took some explanation, but once students got going it was cool to see what they came up with.
Each group needed about 5-8 explanations before it clicked. That part was a struggle. At the same time, I realized a big part of the issue was that as visual as these diagram are, my kids weren’t getting it. They didn’t see that the diagram was a literal representation of the outcomes. Through the experience of making their own and answering some questions they began to get a better picture of what tree diagrams really represent. If you want the work that we did with this activity, click here to download the worksheet students completed and some examples of tree diagrams.
As you can see in the pictures, there were a variety of creations. One groups used little dinosaurs, others used playing cards, and many of them used dice. We took a picture of their creations. I printed the pictures off and they attached them to their work.
Task cards are a great way for students to get practice with a topic. They are way more interactive than a worksheet. Also, I love to have student work with partners when they do task cards. I hear great math talk and they get practice justifying their answers. For compound probability, I have a set of task cards in my TpT store. Or there are many other sets out there. In my task card set we practice theoretical probability, tree diagrams, and combinations. Task cards are very versatile and can be used with small groups, individuals, or the whole class.
For this particular topic I used the task cards in an I do, We do, You do format. I showed a couple of task cards and explained them to the whole class. Next, we did a few together on whiteboards. Last, students worked with partners to finish the rest of the task cards. We use task cards that are self-checking. I found that when student check their own answers as they finish, they actually learn more about their mistakes.
Students love to use technology most of the time. Unless you are asking them to write an essay, of course (sorry language arts teachers!). Using QR codes is great way to incorporate tech and have students practicing at the same time. This game has a series of compound probability situations and the two students can face off against each other.
Students answer the problems and then check their answers with the QR codes. (You will need tablets or phones with a QR reader app to do this activity. Read more tips on getting started here.) If students answer correctly then they check how many points they earned with the other QR code on the card. They get the points for that particular question. If the answer is incorrect, then the other person gets to answer it.
Kids love the challenge in this game. Also, they love the QR codes. It’s a very simple technology that adds novelty to a basic question and answer activity. You can play it competitively or cooperatively.
The other day a student said looked up at the scavenger hunt activity hanging around the room and said, “I love that activity.” I asked if he meant that exact activity, and he replied that he loved when there were problems around the room. Of course, I was so excited that he was volunteering this information 😉 It’s great to get this kind of feedback from kids.
This scavenger hunt consists of multiple choice problems and an icon that goes with each answer. In partners, students complete the questions and they check their answers by telling me the symbol that goes with their answers. Sometimes I make it competitive where the first three teams done get a Jolly Rancher or alien eraser or something like that. This game gets students out of their seats and talking math talk with a partner.
Many practice activities look similar to a traditional worksheet, but they bring an added twist with them. Color by answer takes a traditional worksheet and makes it much cooler. In this case, the students color in a picture of a bison while they are answering questions related to a simple table related showing compound probability situations.
On the other side of the page students color in a bunny. I like to make the pictures silly and small. My students love things that are a bit quirky. And this way, the coloring part takes about 5 minutes for them to complete. This side deals with tree diagrams and gets students more practice. Your student will love this activity.
Do you want your kids to work with manipulatives, but you don’t have access to them? There are a variety of online solutions for probability manipulatives. There are also iPad apps that have probability manipulatives. This site (click the link) is pretty awesome. It lets you set up situations and then it completes the entire situation in the push of a button. For example, if you want to see how many times a six will be rolled over 10 rolls you can just push a button and it will do all 10 rolls at once.
This site has the following manipulatives:
- Playing Cards
- Digit Cards
Also, it allows you to change the spinners. The possibilities are endless. (See what I did there with the word possibilities?) With all of the manipulatives you can make changes. It really is a one stop site for all things probability manipulatives.
I have always loved game shows. The math aspect of them is so cool to me. Sometimes we act like games are for kids, but really, don’t adults love games too? Some games shows are based completely on probability. Deal or No Deal? is a great example of this, and more specifically of compound probability. The player starts off with 26 cases and then chooses a case. But the player can’t see what’s in the case until the very end of the game. Then, in each round the player eliminates cases and gets an offer from the bank for a guaranteed amount depending on what’s left on the board.
What I love about this site is that you can actually play like you are on the show. I played it with the whole class first, so we could talk about the math and the corresponding game strategy. I gave them a chance to play by themselves as well. It was such a fun and a great way to show probability in action.
I love this little hidden treasure. The mathwire.com website contains a collection of games or activities that show probability in action. They are premade and low prep. Also, it features a performance task about toys in cereal boxes. This activity looks perfect for fast finishes or any time that you have for extension. These lesson plans are detailed and easy to follow and they are free. Check this one out for sure!
I have talked about Illustrative Mathematics before with other topics, and I will do it again! I love this site because the problems work so well with students. They align their performance tasks to the CCSS. Each one works with a different aspect of the standard. Most of them are doable for my students.
One of the great things is that they provided detailed answers and other supports. At the same time, they have 5 performance tasks for this one standard. You can choose the one you like best, or have your students complete more than one.
Reviewing with the whole class can be tricky. Some of these little creatures we call 7th graders have a way of getting out of working (the horror!). I find that the knockout games help to combat this very real issue. One student chooses a picture from the screen and a question appears. All students complete the question. I have them work on a whiteboard because then I can see of their answers quickly. You reveal the answer and they check to see how they did. If they get it right, they get points. If not, they don’t get any points.
Also,within the game there are bonuses that can be good or bad. They might get a bonus that says all the girls in the class get 500 points, or that they lose all their points, etc. The kids love the bonuses. Students love doing this because it’s a game. I love knockout games because I can keep them all accountable while having fun and reviewing at the same time.
This compound probability knockout game was created as a request from a teacher in Texas. She loves playing knockout with her students. Actually, she said that she wished there was a knockout game for every topic in 7th grade! (I’m getting there, slowly but surely!) This game includes a variety of questions that get into the different aspects of compound probability.
Try one thing
Maybe you’re new to this topic, or maybe you’ve taught it 17 million times. Either way you can try something new. If you are overwhelmed by so many different ideas, then just Try One Thing. After that you can try another thing. It is a lot less intimidating if you don’t think about all the changes you are going to make. Most of these ideas are little to no prep and they will all engage your students with compound probability.
To read more in depth about how I chunk out and teach this unit, check out the post: How to Teach Compound Probability and Make It Stick.
Check out our game pack for compound probability and save money on a great collection of activities & games. Thanks so much for reading! Until next time.
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