Monday, 15 June 2015

Does luck exist?

Lead in:

We began our unit into probability by looking at the following images and discussing what they were and what they had in common:


We came to the understanding that these are all considered to help us have good luck.  One of our German speakers shared how ladybird is Marienk√§fer in German. We looked at this word and came up with a theory that since it has Mary in the word, it must have something to do with the Virgin Mary and so the ladybird must be a traditional Christian good luck symbol. We decided we should put this on our wonder wall to find out later.

We chatted about superstitions, wondered why 13 is considered unlucky and why in some Asian cultures 4 is considered unlucky.

We then wrote our own definition of what luck is on a post it note and shared these in small groups. This sparked really interesting discussions with our table partners and our whole class. We made connections between luck and fate and between luck and karma. Someone mentioned how we felt the concept of luck connects with our measurement of time because they both might or might not exist. We all agreed it is really trick to try to explain what luck is. 

Someone suggested the reason luck is so subjective is because of someone's own personal history and another added that perhaps our cultural backgrounds impact our understanding of luck. Brilliant!

When discussing the concept of luck, some of us used the lottery as a good example. We thought that since the probability of winning the lottery is so low, it must mean you have luck to win it. So, when we have a low chance of winning something and we do win, that proves luck exists? But, piped in someone else, if you flip a coin and want to get heads and it does land on heads, that is lucky you get it and when we flip a coin the probability is 50-50. we can be lucky when we measure the probability as being a low chance or an even chance? What about if we have a high chance of winning and we win? Is that also lucky? Most agreed that doesn't prove luck exists.

One boy than shared a quote he had heard: You have a higher probability of dying in a car crash driving to buy a lottery ticket than actually winning the jackpot in the lottery! Wow! Could that be true?

Other interesting points raised in our discussion:

° If you don't believe in luck, then luck can't happen to you.

° In my experience whenever I do something good, something good then happens to me. I can make good luck happen.

° Luck is connected to fate.

° Do religious people believe in luck more than scientists?

° Can we measure luck?

° If you live the same lifestyle as someone else, but you bet cancer and they don't, surely that must prove luck exists.

We then thought about whether luck exists or not. We anticipated that we would all have different points of view because it is a subjective concept that can't be proven or disproven. Lots of interesting theories were shared. We placed our luck definition on a spectrum line from 'Yes, it does exist' at one end and 'No, it does not exist' on the other. As we placed our post it notes on the spectrum, we explained why we thought so. Most of us felt luck did exist to some degree and then someone pointed out that maybe it is more that we want luck to exist rather than whether we really think it exists or not. Interesting thought! We wondered if that did influence our thinking or not.

We were then introduced to our central idea and discussed what it might mean:

We talked about how probability can be measured and because it can be measured, it is mathematical thinking.

From this activity, our wonder wall was already having quite a lot of questions we want to find out about in our unit such as:

° Why is 13 considered unlucky?

° Why is 7 considered lucky?

° Why do we have superstitions?

°  What is the likelihood of people dying in certain situations such as eaten by sharks, road deaths, lightening strikes etc? 

We were then ready to start investigating how we can measure probability with our TV game show activity......


  1. That's a great topic to discuss. A good way to introduce probability, with discussion rather than explaining. And there's a sort of philosophical dimension to it as well isn't there.

  2. Enjoying your blog immensely. You are an inspiration!

  3. Enjoying your blog immensely. You are an inspiration!

  4. Thanks for these ideas. They caused some great discussion in our class. The students were divided on two sides of the room in a 'YES luck exists' and a 'NO it doesn't' side and debated. It was fascinating to hear how experiences of others don't change their minds at all. One student was on the NO side and explained that "It is just mathematical chance! If you have a lottery ticket and another 1000 people have one too, you only have 1/1000 chance and a ladybird or any other of those things is not going to give you more chance. However, if you pray you are more likely to actually have the ticket that has the chance." Mags


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