Math Concepts: Probability and prime numbers

What You Can Do: Probability exists all around us. Many games involve probability concepts since children often have to roll dice or spin a spinner to determine how far they get to move or how many points they acquire. But probability also plays a role in everyday occurrences, such as weather, car accidents, illness, or the likelihood of running into a friend at the supermarket.

Throughout the day, encourage your child to think about probability. Ask questions such as, “The weatherperson said there’s a 40% chance of rain today. Should we take an umbrella?” Or, “How likely is it that you’ll see someone you know when you go to the supermarket?”

In many cases, just discussing the odds generally can be sufficient for building understanding, such as describing an event as “very likely” or “impossible.” But in other circumstances, actually calculating the probability can be fun and educational. Lotteries provide a good example. Consider a lottery in which a player is allowed to choose a three digit number, and the player wins if his number matches a randomly selected three-digit number. Compare that to a lottery in which the player chooses a six digit number. The probability of winning either lottery could be described as “unlikely, ” but comparing the theoretical probabilities — 1/1,000 versus 1/1,000,000 — can be enlightening.

Math in the Game: Students will need to think about which random number generator will give them the greatest chance of landing on a space that earns points. For instance, a player on 16 could earn 17 points by moving 1 space or could earn 19 points by moving 3 spaces. Therefore, a spinner with the numbers 1 4 would have a 50% chance of landing on one of those two spaces, but rolling a six-sided die would only have a 33% chance of landing on one of them.

Students earn points for landing on the prime number spaces on the game board. In addition, bonuses are earned for twin prime pairs and other numbers with special relationships, so students are implicitly exposed to several number theory topics.

Related Resources:

Sticks ‘n Stones

In this Native American game, player moves are determined by throwing three sticks. The number of spaces that a player moves is determined by the outcome of the throw.

SKUNK

Students play the game of SKUNK to practice decision-making skills, leading to a better understanding of choice versus chance and building the foundation of mathematical probability.

*Prime Time Probability: Using Computer Games to Facilitate Finding Probability of Independent Events*

This lesson integrates finding probability and strategic play in the Calculation Nation® game, Prime Time. Students will work in groups to determine the best movement option, rolling a die, spinning a spinner or flipping a coin, for their first move of the game.