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Probability -- What are the Chances?

It’s spring and I am always looking for sunshine, warm weather, and any opportunity to spend a day outdoors. I often refer to my handy weather app so I can plan each day (48-degrees and rainy? Indoors with hot coffee. 70-degrees and sunny? Outdoors with iced coffee). The probability that the weather will not turn out as the app predicts is likely, but based on past predictions of the app, my own experience with certain times of the year, and looking outside, it is often most likely that the weather will be as expected. This internal “talk” I go through daily is an example of using the concept of probability in my life.

Probability is the measurement of the likelihood of an event happening. Besides weather, probability is used in areas such as health care, insurance, games, and sports. Clearly this is an important concept for students to understand as they progress through not only educational life, but real life.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)* outlines what probability concepts students should learn and know:

Grades 3–5 Expectations: In grades 3–5 each and every student should–

  • describe events as likely or unlikely and discuss the degree of likelihood using such words as certain, equally likely, and impossible;
  • predict the probability of outcomes of simple experiments and test the predictions;
  • understand that the measure of the likelihood of an event can be represented by a number from 0 to 1.

Grades 6–8 Expectations: In grades 6–8 each and every student should–

  • understand and use appropriate terminology to describe complementary and mutually exclusive events;
  • use proportionality and a basic understanding of probability to make and test conjectures about the results of experiments and simulations;
  • compute probabilities for simple compound events, using such methods as organized lists, tree diagrams, and area models.

A 4th grade probability lesson could include a spinner divided into five different colored sections. You could ask the students, “What is the probability of the spinner landing on the color blue?” By counting the number of blue sections, the probability of this event can be presented as the fraction 2/5.

If you have an interactive display board, Qwizdom OKTOPUS has a Probability Spinner tool that can enhance your lessons. Different spinners can be created and you can send questions to students and instantly gauge their understanding of this concept. For example, using a spinner with eight sections, you can say that each color represents a flavor of yogurt in the refrigerator:

If yellow represents strawberry-banana, what is the probability of picking a strawberry-banana yogurt? Click the arrow to send the question to the class and they can enter using the Qwizdom Notes+ App or internet browser. When most students have answered, simply click the question mark and:

The Probability Spinner is simple to use and helps to engage the learners in your classroom. Use the tool to introduce the probability concept, with small groups for review, reteach, or enrich depending on the comprehension level of each group. Students can even independently use the spinner for a collaborative group activity. Plus, it’s just fun to watch the spinner spin! Watch this short video to see what the Probability Spinner can do:

To learn more about the Qwizdom OKTOPUS annotation and collaboration tools, go to Ask for a free trial and access free lessons including probability lessons for grades 3 through high school. The lessons, the annotation and collaboration tools, and the simplicity of use makes Qwizdom OKTOPUS the complete interactive package you’re looking for.

*National Council for the Teachers of Mathematics. (n.d.). Data Analysis and Probability. Retrieved April 22, 2019, from


Tags: probability , spinner , elearning , edtech , educational technology , active learning , student engagement , math , math lessons

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