Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The M&M Game

M and M Game: 2-dice Version 
Students place M&M markers on the numbers 2-12.   Students may place one M&M marker on each number or place several on some numbers and leave other numbers blank.   Next, students toss two 6-sided dice, find the sum, and remove an M&M marker from that number, if there is still one.   The first player to remove all markers wins the game. 

This game helps students develop an understanding of the probability of a two-dice throw.  As students play the game, they practice addition facts, but they also learn that some sums are tossed more frequently than others.  This hands-on experience is then solidified with a discussion of all of the possible outcomes, creating a chart to visually capture the data.

Next, students play the game again with this mathematical knowledge and discuss how this information impacts the placement of M&Ms.  Couple this game-playing with class data collection and students may then compare theoretical and experimental probability of a larger sample.

This is just one example of how a simple game may be used as a data collection activity to develop student understanding of theoretical and experimental probability concepts.  Some teachers question the use of games in the classroom pressed for time.  In my experience, this rich use of games to practice basic facts AND as a data collection activity is time well-spent and students respond positively to both the practice and the discussion of these hands-on, fun experiences.

NOTE:  This game, created by Susie Siegel as a grad school project, uses a sentence strip as the number line.  The M&M pieces were created using PowerPoint.  Teachers may choose to laminate the pieces for use in a classroom math center.

  • Download Ms. Siegel's M&M Game directions and recording sheet.
  • Download a picture, alternate recording sheet and directions for using that recording sheet.  NOTE:  This recording sheet was designed to fit into a sheet protector so that students may use dry erase markers to play and record data.  This option may be used without the M&M game pieces.
  • Download the 2-dice toss recording sheet for a discussion of the theoretical probability of tossing two dice.  Students write one outcome that produces that sum in each box to create a visual display.   NOTE:  use different colored dice for this activity so that students are able to see that tossing 4 on the red die and 3 on the blue die is different from tossing 3 on the red die and 4 on the blue die.  Both must be counted as outcomes.  Students might benefit from actually using two different color markers to record these outcomes as well.
  • Download M&M pieces for use in playing the game.

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