Probability Lesson Plans
Teachers can use probability lesson plans to teach students about theoretical and experimental probability.
By Christina Lee
When you are teaching students about probability, it is important to tell them that there are two types - theoretical and experimental. There are many different ways to teach students about these concepts. When you flip a coin 10 times, the chance of getting heads is ½ or 50%, and the chance of getting tails is ½ or 50%. This is an example of theoretical probability. However, if one were to actually flip a coin 10 times, you probably wouldn't get this result. This illustrates the difference between theoretical probability and experimental probability.
Probability is expressed as a decimal, ratio or percent. For example, if you flip a coin 10 times, and get heads three times, this is expressed as 3/10, 0.3 or 30%. Probability lessons are an excellent way to teach students about fractions, decimals, and percents.
One way students can explore probability is through rolling a die. They start off this using one die, and can have six possible outcomes. Students might say that they should roll a certain number once every six times they roll according to theoretical probability. Then I ask students to roll the die 30 times and have them record the results on a tally chart. Afterwards, students can compare results with those of their classmates to see what the experimental probability of rolling a one might be. You can ask your students questions like “Why is it important to gather the data as a class, and look at the results altogether?”
Some other manipulatives you can use to teach probability include spinners, M&Ms, counters, and cubes. What follows are probability lesson plans that you can use in your classroom.
Probability Lesson Plans:
This is a link to a two-part lesson plan on probability. In the first part of the lesson, students consider the probability of an event (theoretical) and record fractions/ratios on a likelihood line. The second part of the lesson has students find and record data. This lesson has many useful tips and connections that can be shared with students.
This lesson has students make predictions based on sample data using colored cubes or tiles. They express probability as fractions, percents and decimals. This lesson includes suggestions on extending the activity to further learning.
This activity has students throw a die 50 times and record the number of odd and even outcomes. Students are asked to predict possible outcomes before completing the experiment.
This activity has students roll two dice 100 times and record totals by tallying. The worksheet asks students to consider a few questions on total possibilities by analyzing their data.
A simple, but excellent worksheet for students to practice experimental probability problems using colored cubes. Students are also asked to consider theoretical probability as they predict possible outcomes.