This week we are officially beginning one of my favorite units in math class - data collection and probability. On Friday of last week, I read the first chapter of an excellent book which introduces young learners to probability in a fun an attainable way. The first chapter had the main characters tossing a coin to decide what television show to watch.
In the story, the coin kept coming up heads. Finally, the boys decided that the last roll would decide it. I stopped reading and posed the question to the class: We know the chances of getting a heads or tails is 50/50. But what did the children thing would come up next, given the long string of heads? Predictably, most children thought that tails would come next, since so many heads had come before, that somehow, the odds had changed. Ah, that's how Vegas makes the money.
When we continued the story, the quote that stuck out was "coins are dumb". It's true! They don't know that heads came up 15 times before. So each and every time, it's back to 50/50. I think children will remember that - but, just in case, we set out to prove it this week with a fun coin flipping experiment of our own.