Monday, April 11, 2016

5 "T"'s for Teaching Probability

Do you want to teach probability to your students, but are you running out of ideas? Use these tips to help your students learn and remember probability in a way that's meaningful to them.
1. Treat probability as a "treat." By this time of year you're tired. Your students are tired. Everybody wants a little reward for all their hard work leading up to testing, so why not treat your students to a little sweetness during your math block? I used Starburst candies for this example, but you could also use different flavors of lollipops or other individually wrapped candies.

Use Various Flavors of Candy as a Treat

Start with a paper bag and the wrapped candy pieces. Show the class the various flavors of candy, and count the number of each one as you place them in the paper bag. Write the flavors and totals on the board for the class to see, along with the total number of candy pieces in the bag. Ask for a volunteer to come up and choose a flavor from the bag, without looking. Once a volunteer is chosen, ask him/her what flavor they like the best from the flavors in the bag, then ask the class what the probability is that he/she will get what he/she wants when they choose one (without looking) from the bag. Make sure you have enough of the candy to share with every child in the class when you are finished with the lesson!

2. Technology: use computers to make probability fun. As part of your math centers, have students use this free online game to practice their probability-using skills. Make sure to include the link to the game on your weekly newsletter for students to play at home. 

Play Probability Fair on the Computers
Another use of technology is to turn on the Brainpop clip. Kids love Brainpop, and they love animation. This cute clip helps students understand the basics when probability is involved. 

Turn on Brainpop Probability
3. Try tales, dog tales, that is! The first tale involves a lovable pooch named Penny, from It's Probably Penny and what probably could or could not happen this weekend. This is an adorable picture book to use during reading time with your class, so that you can activate your students' prior knowledge about things that often happen in their own lives, or that probably could happen, as well as things that could not happen.

Activate Prior Knowledge with Probability Books

The second tale is called The Runaway Puppy, and it's about another puppy named Brada. When Brada escapes, the children race to help find her. First, however, they have to think about the most likely places the missing pooch would have gone. This is a terrific book to include in your classroom library, and will easily become a favorite for your students.

What's the Probability She Ran Here, or There?
4. Tune it up! Use music to engage your musical learners. Then use dance moves to involve your kinesthetic students! Use your school's search engine to locate a probability song or video and get your kids singing and dancing their way to learning about probability! Here's a sample from YouTube to get you started.

5. Try task cards during math centers. They are terrific for hands-on learners and colorful enough for visual learners. The best ones are differentiated so that students can work at their own levels. This set has three different levels for each probability task, and 36 task cards in all. It even includes answer keys, so students can check their own work, if desired.

Probability Task Cards
I hope you have some new ideas for teaching probability to your students. Whether you treat it as a treat, use technology, try some dog tales, tune it up, or try some task cards, there no limit to what you can do to make these last weeks of math instruction interesting and fun! Have a fabulous rest of your year!

"See you" next time!

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