Experimental probability- bin it

If you’re looking for a nice task to introduce experimental probability, get pupils to throw scrunched up paper balls into the bin from a distance and recording their number of successes and misses. Pupils love this activity and you can get a lot of learning from it:

  1. demonstrating something that doesn’t have equally likely outcomes and so requires an experiment,
  2. relative frequency,
  3. expected number of outcomes (“What if they threw 500? How many would we expect them to get in?”),
  4. how increasing the number of trials makes the probabilities more reliable,
  5. probability of missing = 1 – probability of getting it in.

Do a girls vs boys comparison and you’ll have the class very engaged 🙂

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3 Responses

  1. Rhys Pritchard says:

    Why not also use this game for revisiting equivalent percentages and decimals as well as working out ratios. Simply get each player to roll a die and which ever number they get tells them how many throws they can have. Pupils can then work out the ratio of scores to misses, the probabilities of each player scoring as a decimal or fraction and work out the percentage success rate of each player. You can even make it into a tournament.

  2. I also like the experiment where you only need a pencil and a sheet of paper with some lines drawn on it, and you let the pencil fall many times and count the number of lines it crosses. I don’t remember the details, but somehow you can determine the value of Pi using this technique.

  3. Nick Tiley-Nunn says:

    I have done this but with the addition of giving certain pupils the task of changing one variable e.g moving the bin closer, facing the other direction, to either increase or decrease the probability of the class getting the paper in the bin. Some of the changes they made were very creative.

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