Using an iPod for probability experiments

iPod image

Screenshot from iChoose

Year 6/7 students continue to explore probability in our maths classes, today with iPod touches. “iChoose” is a free application, with a number of options for random choice results – coin toss, dice, cards, girl/boy and more.  Students did  timed trials to collect data (both coin tosses and dice throws) and collated class results. Each student used the iPod calculator to work out their percentages of each result and then compared individual data with class data to show that the greater the number of trials, the closer to the theoretical probability the experimental data gets.

We also used real dice and coins (swapping over so all students had a turn at both the real and virtual) and compared the results. At the end of the lesson, students completed an ‘exit slip’, with three important things that they have learnt about probability. Most students were able to complete this successfully, writing how to calculate probability, how all outcomes add to 100% and about experimental and theoretical probability. Even students with greater learning needs were able to state that they had learnt how to work out percentage and how to tally results. It is pleasing when you can engage students with a wide range of learning abilities in one class and hear that each of them has benefited from the lesson.

Chance and Probability


At the beginning of next term the Year 6/7 Maths classes will be starting a unit on Probability. We will use coins, dice, cards, spinners and coloured beads to perform experiments and calculate theoretical probabilities.

Draw a line across your page and mark ‘zero’ (impossible) at the left end and ‘one’ (certain) at the right end. Divide the line into quarters and mark 1/4 as ‘unlikely’, 1/2 as ‘even chance’ and 3/4 as ‘likely’. Give some examples for each category. For example, “The sun rising in the west” is impossible, a probability of zero; “Having a boy or girl baby” is equally likely, a probability of 1/2 or 50%.

Two-up” is a classic Australian game, played on Anzac day and at casinos, which involves two coins being tossed from a “kip” (a flat piece of wood) into the air. Players bet on the outcome. Are all the possibilities equal? (2 heads, tail and head or 2 tails). Can you construct a spinner with which you would have the same chances of winning as a ‘two up’ game?

The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives has a couple of good tools for teaching and learning about Probability: Virtual Spinner with histogram for graphing results and Virtual Coin tossing.