Saturday, August 28, 2010

Data Collection: Tossing Two Dice

Students LOVE working with dice, almost forgetting that they're doing math.  While standard probability lessons ask students to calculate the probability of tossing an even number, a sum of 10, etc., students are more highly motivated when they generate their own experimental data.

The Mathwire collection contains many examples of both one-die toss activities and two-dice toss activities.  These data investigations begin with a game but make data collection an integral part of the activity, so that students begin to examine the underlying probability of the game and can use appropriate strategies in future play.

Students will generate their own small set of data, which should be combined with the whole class data for a larger set.  Teachers may ask questions to help students draw conclusions and make generalizations about the probability of dice tosses.

After this initial hands-on data collection and analysis, extend the activity by asking students to use online dice simulators to generate even more data to test their hypotheses and generalizations.  This option allows students to quickly generate large sets of random data.  It is helpful to pair students for this activity:  one student at the computer keyboard and the other student recording the results of each simulated dice toss.  Again, ask students to post their results to a class data collection display (e.g. tally chart, graph, etc.) so that the class is able to analyze the larger sample.

Check out these online dice-toss simulators:
  • Coins & Dice:  A Probability Simulator records the results of each dice toss, making it easy for students to record the result of each dice toss
  • Dice Roll displays the results in a bar graph so that students visually see the results of extended dice tosses
This data collection and data anaylsis approach provides students with hands-on data collection activities that generate real-life data for analysis.  Students then take advantage of technology to simulate the activity, quickly collecting larger sets of random data.  It's the best of both worlds!

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