Theoretical and Experimental Probability

Middle school students need opportunities to think about probability to understand the meaning of taking a chance. These resources support the active development of the concept of probability and the appropriate use of related mathematics terminology.

Adjustable Spinner
This simulation demonstrates the difference between experimental and theoretical probabilities. It is easy to run a number of experiments.

Data Management: A Look at Leisure Activities
Use the navigation on this site to select appropriate class activities. Students collect and analyze data and can look at differences between experimental and theoretical data when rolling a die.

Introduction to the Concept of Probability
This lesson is a good way to build on students’ innate understanding of probability. It includes teacher information, student activities, and definitions of key terms.

Random Drawing Tool – Independent Trials
This applet enables students to run experiments to examine and better understand theoretical and experimental probabilities. See the related lesson Boxing Up at http://illuminations.nctm.org/LessonDetail.aspx?ID=L448.

The Smithville Families
This printable lesson uses Pascal’s triangle to build student understanding of theoretical probability. The lesson explores the probabilities for the births of boys and girls in a large family. The outcome of a coin toss is used to indicate the birth of a boy or a girl.


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