Identify whether common events are certain, likely, unlikely, or improbable.
Statistics, Data Analysis and Probability: probability (certain, likely, unlikely, improbable) Some events are certain or likely to occur, whereas others are unlikely or improbable. Numbers can help us understand what situations might happen and what others might not.
Children can use a spinner (spinner has different colors represented as different sizes on the spinner) to find the probability of spinning a particular color. Ask children which color they would rather choose. Have the child guess how many spins will end up the biggest color. Children can record their spins making a tally chart and compare it to the estimate made. Use the same prediction for twenty spins and see if the probability is closer to the child’s estimate. Another spinner can be made out of a paper plate and a paper clip and this time each color section can be made equal. Estimate probability, spin and record results. More spinners can be made with a greater number of equal sections and colors, too.
Make a spinner and divide it into 8 sections. What’s the probability that the spinner will land on a number less than 4? (3/8) Make up similar questions for the child to answer.
Children of this age are often not very flexible in their thinking. If, for example, if they remember receiving a particularly-enjoyed candy at a certain neighbor’s house while trick or treating at Halloween, they may assume that the same treat will be distributed at that house the following year. Try to use language when discussing recurring events with your children that allow room for the possibility, or probability, that experiences may vary, may change dramatically, or may not happen at all. Use terms such as “more likely” or “less likely” and help children explore reasons why a variety of experiences are probable in their lives. When a matter of health or well-being is involved, help them to determine the likelihood (probability) of a consequence occurring and to plan their reaction and/or responses accordingly. For example, if your teacher cannot read your paper, what is the probability that your teacher will ask you to do it over? How does this probability influence your actions?
Offer your children real-life experiences that give them opportunities to experience probability and to make predictions for themselves. If, for example, your child has one pair of blue socks and several pairs of white socks, place the blue pair and several white pairs in a basket or box, ask your child to close his/her eyes and pick a pair of socks after predicting aloud how likely he/she thinks it is that the blue pair will be drawn. Put the pair drawn back and draw again. Continue until your child realizes that that so long as the same number of sock-pairs are in the basket, continued pulling a pair out does not increase the possibility of getting the blue pair. Then try this activity again, but when a pair is drawn don’t put it back in the basket. See if your child will notice that as the choice range narrows, the possibility of drawing a certain pair increases. Discuss how probability in this type of activity is all a matter of “luck” in that nothing the child does influences the outcome. It will happen on occasion that even with a hundred pair of white socks and only one blue that the blue ones will be drawn on the first try and you can discuss the odds of that happening. Listening to your child's reasoning when he/she explains his/her reaction to these events will help you understand the thinking process going on and give you an opportunity to expand that reasoning, as needed. Experiences such as these make it likely as your child matures he/she will engage in less and less “magical thinking” in which a child believes that he can influence events in which the real determiner of the outcome is chance.
Many children’s board games offer structured opportunities to experience “chance” and help a child to separate his/her sense of self-worth/self-esteem from the outcome of the game. Examples of such games are those in which the play is determined only by chance—roll of dice, using a spinner, drawing a card at random, etc. Other games are won through the application of a specific skill; i.e., the game “Concentration” where some chance is involved, but an element of skill is present in that a child who can remember where specific cards were improves his/her chance of drawing that pair. Even in games that seem to be totally skill-based there is often a segment of chance: a game of who can call out the answer to the most addition facts before other players cab answer would seem to be a game of total skill, but in fact, chance determines which child gets a particular question and some will be easier than others. Discuss these situations with your child, choosing times when the child is not feeling “threatened” by the outcome of a recent game. Before playing any game, discuss how much chance plays a role in determining the outcome of the game. Encourage children to predict whether every player has an equal chance to win (a game of total chance) or whether skill plays a part. If skill is involved, how does that change children's predictions of the outcome? How can the odds be changed by modifying the rules or game pieces so that every child has some chance of winning? Opportunities to understand how chance changes the probability of certain outcomes helps children to make more informed choices in other areas of their lives and may reduce conflict when children play together.
The games available to your child in this lesson, along with the Learning Tips that you can use to help children make maximum use of those games, are designed to help your child increase his knowledge and experience of a real-life reality: that there are elements of chance in the outcomes of many life experiences, and there are instances when skill and hard work are the determiners of success. They also set up the expectation that it would be useful to be able to estimate the likelihood of certain outcomes, and that is motivation for continuing the study of probability in future lessons. If your child needs extra help in understanding and using this basic knowledge of probability and chance, the most help that you can offer your child is not a worksheet but more opportunities to participate in real-life and simulated (games) activities such as are suggested in the Learning Tips and the computerized games provided in this lesson.