Probability of Childhood Games

Robert Foote Disney Magnet School
4140 N. Marine Drive
Chicago IL 60613
(312) 534-5844


Students will find probability of several different events theoretically
and experimentally. This lesson is intended for junior high students.

Materials Needed:

1. 5 or 6 spinners evenly divided into 6 colors.
2. Three-color spinner divided into a half and two quarters.
3. A bag of fifteen marbles (five of one color, four of another, etc.).
4. A set of dice and a Monopoly board.


Students in groups will migrate from one station to another during the
period with about ten minutes given to each task. Each group should have a
recorder to write down the results of each experiment.

The following is a description of each experiment and what to do for each:

Experiment 1: The four color spinner experiment involves a spinner for each
participant and the participants will spin the spinner twenty times and record
on which color the spinner landed.

Experiment 2: The six color spinner follows the same procedure as the four
color spinner of Experiment 1. A total of twenty spins per group is again

Experiment 3: When I did this experiment as my mini-teach, I used a unique
spinner. The spinner with marbles is a spinner from the game The Magnificent Race, a favorite game of my childhood. Unfortunately, the game is no longer
being made. However, you can simulate the results using a bag of marbles
with five of one color, four of another, three of a third, two of a fourth and
one of a fifth. This will give you a total of 15 marbles. Have each group draw
a marble from the bag, replace it, and draw again until they have drawn a total
of twenty times. Record the results.

Experiment 4: The Monopoly board task is for students to determine which space
on the Monopoly board is landed on the most. To do this, starting at Go, roll
the dice and record where on the board the player would land. Continue doing
this starting at Go each time until the dice have been rolled twenty times.

After students have finished all the experiments and recorded them, the next
step is to compare the experimental probability from the results of the
experiment to the theoretical probability. The theoretical probability can be
determined for each of the experiments in this way:

Experiment 1: This spinner is broken up into one half and two fourths, so
theoretically, the probability for landing in each of the spaces should be one
half, one fourth, and one fourth. This means that theoretically the spinner
should land in the half space half the time and so on.

Experiment 2: This spinner has evenly divided spaces, so theoretically the
spinner should land in each space the same number of times. This may or may not
happen in reality. You need a whole lot of trials to match the theoretical

Experiment 3: This spinner holds a a total of fifteen marbles with more of some
marbles than others so the theoretical probability depends on the number of
marbles of each color. The theoretical probability is the number of marbles
of a particular color over the total number of marbles. For example, if you
have five marbles of one color, the probability of that color being picked is
five over fifteen.

Experiment 4: The Monopoly experiment is rooted in the classic probability
experiment of rolling two dice. Students can make a chart to determine which
rolls come up more frequently than others and then match the rolls to the spaces
on the Monopoly board. The most common roll should be seven.

After the groups have finished with their individual experiments, compile the
data for each experiment from all the groups. You should find that the compiled
data of the entire class should be closer to the theoretical probability than
the data of the individual groups.
Return to Mathematics Index