Introduce the Project and Generate Interest

1. Introduce the challenge. The challenge in this project is for students to learn the fundamentals of probability and apply them in a relevant, realistic way to their own life decisions. The important goal is for them to understand that decisions have probable outcomes and are not just random events.

2. Describe the scenario and the task. Clarify, if necessary
Students will form marketing research teams to investigate statistics and probability applications in areas of life relevant to their future and safety. Students may choose their own topic, but must do initial research showing that probability and statistics apply to their topic. If students cannot find a topic, or the teacher prefers to assign topics, students may research one of four predetermined topics: 

  • Driving and cell phone use
  • Diet and health 
  • Professional athletics
  • Costs associated with a college education 

Each team uses the statistics to create a public service message for teens. Based on their findings, what recommendations do they have for their fellow students? The public service message presentation can be digital, in the form of a website, Prezi, PowerPoint, or something more inventive. If technology is not available, students can create a skit, song, or game. The presentation cannot be longer than 5 minutes.

The reflection at the end of the project is important. Students should be expected to understand how probabilities apply to other areas of their lives in addition to the issues they have investigated. 

3. Frame the task with the Driving Question. In this project, the students will craft the final Driving Question for their particular focus of study, using the following template:

How can we use statistics and probability to advocate successfully for making informed decisions about [blank]? Students will choose their own topic of study or chose from four recommended topics: 

  • Driving and cell phone use
  • Diet and health 
  • Professional athletics
  • Costs associated with a college education 

4. Describe the concepts that students will learn as they complete the project. 

  • Experimental and theoretical probability
  • Probability distributions and frequency tables
  • Permutations and commutations
  • Compound probability 
  • Conditional probability

5. Discuss the why behind the project. Even experts in probability often find probability to be confusing and counterintuitive. The challenge in this project is for students to understand probability and then examine their intuitive sense of luck or chance and compare it to the logic described by probability theory. After working though common probability problems and investigating current issues affected by probability, they should exit the project with an appreciation for probability and the knowledge that decisions lead to probable outcomes.

6. If using Curriki Geometry for your students, invite them to the site.

7. Have your students review the student materials available to them. You may also choose to download and print some of the resources for distribution as a student packet. 

8. Anchor rubrics. Students should understand project grading and rubric language. Discuss the Critical Thinking and Mathematical Practices section with students and note its importance to the project.

If your students have no or little experience with PBL, you may have to begin the first day by explaining the process. They can also watch the video Project Based Learning: Explained (approximately 4 minutes) or a video on PBL and mathematics (approximately 30 minutes).

Tips and Tools

Generate interest in the project by using an Entry Event. Examples:
Begin with this video about probability theory and randomness (6 minutes) and a discussion. Share the initial brainstorm on the Driving Question using Gallery Walks (link takes you to an explanation of a Gallery Walk) or Padlet (a site where you can add anything to your blank “wall”).

If your or students would like to change or refine the Driving Question, use this Protocol for Refining the Driving Question.  

It’s critical to a good start that students understand they will be assessed on (1) geometry content; (2) mathematical practices 2, 4, and 8; (3) teamwork; (4) presentations.

Consult these Curriki resources for textbook assistance on probability and statistics or review the Khan Academy course on probability.

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