Monday, 29 June 2015

The Probability of Not Giving Enough Learning Time to Probability?

= Seems to be high......

Poor ole Probability.

It seems throughout primary school, the investigation of measuring probability doesn't garner the same value as other maths strands.

I used to be guilty of that too for a lot of my teaching career.  Play some games, do some chance experiments with dice and coins, teach the language involved and then thinking that is ticked off for the year, move on to more 'important' maths strands.

It wasn't until about 4 years ago, when I began enquiring into probability in more depth that I began to see what an incredible maths strand it really is and how important it is for kids to investigate.

Why should we give more learning time to probability?

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1.It is real life maths that kids can connect with so easily in their daily lives.

   (It's not the usual: 'Well, one day you might want to re-tile your bathroom so     you need to know how to measure area'   type of maths. It's maths that 
    happens in their life right now.)

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2. It is fun maths; for those children not so interested in mathematical thinking, this gives them that opportunity to latch back into seeing maths actually being an interesting concept to learn about. 

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3. It fosters a naturally genuine interest into mathematical thinking and problem solving in children. 

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4. It requires higher order and critical thinking skills (unless you just give them a table to complete with a coin to flip 50 times)

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5. It creates diverse problem-solving situations for kids to determine how best to solve.

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6. Probability helps children to see the connection between maths and science. Just as a scientist creates a hypothesis and tests it out, children can be encouraged to create their own hypotheses related to probability to test. 

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7.Kids can easily take ownership of their learning with probability. Posing their own enquiry questions and when given the freedom, can create their own ways to measure it.

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8.When kids are given the opportunity to take ownership of their learning, they can easily feel very proud of their achievements as mathematicians.

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9.It helps bring an added sense of purpose for learning fractions / decimals / %.

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10.Out of all the maths strands children learn in school, it is one of the most used in life.

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11 It is a measurement (Despite the IB considering it a number strand, I beg to differ.  The more you get into probability, the more you will find it is definitely more a measurement strand) that affects their lives all the time.

(Think: what type of sandwich might I have in my lunch today?, the weather forecast for the week, the likelihood of getting my home learning done this week, games we play, understanding the lottery advertisements they see every day, 3 queues at the supermarket: which is more likely to move faster? etc)

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12 There are so many aspects that children can choose to enquire into and can allow for easy differentiation to occur in the classroom. 

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13 Enquiring into probability strengthens language understanding; we use probability language constantly in our lives and by exploring the mathematical measurement of probability, it helps strengthen literal and inferring language skills.

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14. Professionally, if you are wanting to explore how to be a more enquiry-based maths teacher, then give probability an extra week to your yearly maths programme.  It naturally instills enquiry in children and as a teacher, you can transfer some of this 'hands off' maths style teaching to other maths strands. Probability, I think, can really help a teacher to experience what we can be doing as enquiry-based teachers for all maths strands to some degree.

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And, though this is one of the least important reasons, if the above hasn't convinced you to dedicate an extra week to probability to your yearly maths programme, then consider that the International Schools Assessment always gives considerable weight to probability in their testing. 

If we treat probability as only the typical 'flipping coins /rolling dice' chance experiments we tend to do, then yes, I agree that it isn't such an important maths strand.  

But, if we give children the opportunity to really dig deep into how we can measure probability, then it can transform it into one of the most valuable maths strands children ought to be enquiring into.

Probability Activity Links:

Link: Introduction to probability: Does luck exist?

Link: Investigating strategies to measure probability

Link: Investigating why 7 is considered lucky

Link: Finding out how we can use fractions / decimals / % to measure probability and why

Link: Kids investigate their own interests in probability

Link: Counter-intuitive probability: The Monty Hall problem

Link: Rock-Paper-Scissors: Is it maths or psychology?

Link: Probability that creates tension between common sense and maths

Link: Probability summative assessment


PYP Maths Planner

Transdisciplinary Theme:   How the world works

Central Idea: Instead of luck, mathematicians think of probability.

Lines of Inquiry:

  • CONNECTION:   How we use the measurement of probability in our real lives
  • FUNCTION:        Strategies we can use to measure probability
  • CAUSATION:      Why we use fractions / decimals / % to measure probability
  • FUNCTION:        Ways we can measure probability visually

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