Candy Bucket Probability – Sometimes You Have to Be Silly

So all of my students think I’m the ultimate nerd and that I love teaching and math too much. And I like it that way. I frequently say things like “this is the coolest thing ever” about math stuff and I’m totally serious and just smile as the eye rolls go. I have students come to me with “why are you always so happy?” I guess teenagers just can’t fathom actually enjoying school…

So I was trying to think of a way to introduce my last unit in Math 2 – Probability. I know there are a million great games with probability, but in my searching I just wasn’t finding anything that was really doing it for me. The activities I found were either too long, requiring too many materials, or just not going to work with my classes. I didn’t really want it to lead to any discovery, but I wanted to spark a conversation about experimental vs. theoretical probability. So I decided to do a game similar to Sarah’s Mystery Box and kind of like Connected Math 6th Grade’s Gee Whiz game. I named my game “Candy Bucket”. Creative, I know.

I filled a bucket with various candies. There were Smarties, Starburst, Skittles, and Chocolates (3 Musketeers, Snickers, Twix). In every class the Smarties and Starburst had a lot in the bucket and the Skittles and Chocolates only had a few.

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So after I said to the class we were going to play a game called “Candy Bucket” I had the table in the front separate and count the candies. While they did that, I explained the rules:

  • Students from the front two tables will pick a candy out of the bucket
  • Students from the other tables will be randomly picked to guess what the front tables will pick out of the bucket
  • Students who guess correctly will get a prize (pencil)

We tallied how many there were of each candy and then started guessing. I made sure to be really enthusiastic as the game host. As the guessing went on, we tallied what had been picked. In the class below, they had decided they wanted to separate the chocolates and we ended up with 3 correct guessers out of 7.

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So that was a silly 5 minutes. But then what it did was led to a discussion about why only 3/7 guessed correctly. Statements were made like “even though the starburst had the most, those are small and weren’t picked as much” and “there really shouldn’t have been a milky way picked”. Then we were able to discuss theoretical vs. experimental probability and the factors that made our experiment differ from the theoretical situation.

Yay for context!

Disclaimer: If you do this game, you will have complaints about how you like the front tables more than the back tables. Luckily I do random grouping every week so I could chalk it up to those tables being lucky. Also, just keep smiling and they will smile. 🙂

J’aime bien être absurde avec mes étudiants.

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