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Guide and features
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Featured Early Years Foundation Stage; US Kindergarten
Featured UK Key Stage 1&2; US Grades 1-5
Featured UK Key Stage 3-5; US Grades 6-12
Featured UK Key Stage 1, US Grade 1 & 2
Featured UK Key Stage 2; US Grade 3-5
Featured UK Key Stages 3 & 4; US Grade 6-10
Featured UK Key Stage 4 & 5; US Grade 11 & 12
Stage: 3 and 4
Why do this problem?
offers opportunities for stating and testing hypotheses, and provides a good chance to introduce sample space diagrams and to discuss experimental and theoretical probabilities.
This lesson would work well in a classroom with a single computer, which can be displayed for all to see.
Before considering combinations of spinners, introduce the interactivity with a single spinner, one spin at a time. Clarify that it is not a frequency table, it's a relative frequency table. Ask students to describe what will happen for various possible outcomes of the next spin, then spin to see if they are right. Repeat until students seem secure with the probability, the fraction/decimal links and the interactivity. Discuss what they expect and then spin $100$ (or $50$ $000$) times
Once students are good at predicting what happens when they have a single spinner, ask them to suggest what will happen if the interactivity is set to run two identical 'size $6$' spinners. Ask them to identify possible outcomes and sketch / predict what the relative frequency bar chart will look like after many spins. Then run the interactivity for a few $100$ spins.
Allow students some thinking and discussion time in pairs before bringing them together to explain why the bars aren't all of the same height. Introduce students to sample space diagrams.
Now ask students to apply this technique to analyse the case of adding two spinners, sizes $3$ and $9$, and draw a good bar chart to describe the outcomes. If this is done on loose sheets of paper, the different suggestions can be displayed and compared. Encourage discussion of the alternatives before seeing the computer generated bar chart.
The computer also does differences of two spinners. In pairs, choose two spinners, and work out what the bar chart will look like. Find a pair who have chosen different spinners to yours, and convince them that your predicted chart is correct. If they are convinced, check with the interactivity on the computer, before choosing a harder example to work on.
Which combinations are most likely? Which are least likely?
How many times do you think you should run the experiment to get a reasonable approximation to the real probability?
How can you find an exact value for a probability?
Encourage students to vary the number of sectors on the spinners, creating and testing hypotheses of their own based on these cases.
Once they have experimented with the interactivity, suggest they take a look at
where the charts have been produced, and students must work out which spinners were used.
Having a blank sample space diagram or a blank tree diagram can make this more accessible.
What happens if the spinners have just two or three numbers? Can the students work out the theoretical probabilities for these cases?
Meet the team
The NRICH Project aims to enrich the mathematical experiences of all learners. To support this aim, members of the NRICH team work in a wide range of capacities, including providing professional development for teachers wishing to embed rich mathematical tasks into everyday classroom practice. More information on many of our other activities can be found here.
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