Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Game of Pig

Pig is one of my favorite probability games.  I have played the game with kindergarten through college level students and used it in teacher training sessions.  Everyone LOVES the game and it's fun to watch who plays it safe and who's the risk-taker.  

In my own classroom experience, I have found that this is best introduced as a class activity. Students collect points for each toss of the die unless a ONE is tossed, which means they lose all of the points they have collected in the round. To prevent losing their points, students may elect to stop at any point in the game before a ONE is tossed and they get to keep the points they collected but get no further points. Students love the game and begin to appreciate that theoretical probability and experimental probability are often quite different! 

I devised a method that uses only one die tossed by the teacher, so this is a great transition activity that quiets a class as they strain to hear and record the results of the die toss AND decide if they will stop or continue to play.   It's a win-win because students feel that they're playing, but they're actually learning a lot about the probability of a one-die toss.

  • Download Pig directions.
  • Download Pig template or Pig Tally template, and place in a sheet protector to record die tosses.  Students may use dry erase markers for a reusable recording sheet.  The Pig Tally template requires students to use tally marks to record each toss of the die.  This recording sheet is a very visual presentation of the results and proves extremely useful when students devise winning strategies, as described below.
Results:  Younger students may use calculators to total each column.  Older students should use mental math to find the sum of the die tosses.  Students should write the total of all 3 columns in the upper right hand corner of the template and circle it.

Extending the Data Collection & Analysis:
  • Ask pairs or small groups of students to talk about the game and come up with a winning strategy.  For example, some groups decide to stop once they have 20 points.  Another group decides to stop when they get 3 of any number.
  • Have each group share their winning strategy and explain why they think it is a winner.
  • Play the game again.  Groups MUST play according to their winning strategy.
  • Discuss the results and allow groups to refine their strategies, if desired, before playing 1-2 more times.
  • Finally, ask students to write about what they learned from this game.  Is there really a winning strategy that works all the time?  Explain your thinking.

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