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7 Surefire Probability Math Projects Kids Will Love (Even if They Hate Math!)

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When math is a nightmare for your kid (or student), teaching them new concepts or helping them with homework can be like pulling teeth.

Welcome to STEM Geek!
Welcome to STEM Geek!

But with a little help from these fun yet helpful math projects, you are sure to give them a swell time learning math, whether at home or in the classroom. Using this technique gives probability math a complete makeover, grounding in key concepts they need to learn all about simple probability.

This article goes over 7 of the best probability math projects you can do with your students or kids at home.

#1. Pick and Go (Classroom Fun)

[10 - 13 yrs]
Colorful Ping Pong Balls

The beauty of introducing icebreakers in a classroom environment is that you ‘break away’ from the passive routines school imposes on your pupils or even you as a teacher. Through active learning, fun classroom activities grants a certain level of mastery of the things learnt in class– this activity included.

Knowing that, put some more action to your craft with this project which interestingly introduces simple concepts like sample space in simple probability.

What you’ll need

  • A sizable cardboard box.
  • Different colored scrunchies.
  • Different colored sponge balls matching the scrunchies. (Ping pong balls would do too. But if you don’t have them, grab a batch of cheap foam toy balls.)

Activity

To get them started, prepare the balls and organize them into clusters, matching each color per set. Make sure to engage each member in the process at least once.

More often than not, I realize that my learners tend to enjoy activities more when they do things together in teams. No wonder I’m a huge fan of team work!

Select a random number of balls, noting the numbers down somewhere, and place them inside the box in front of the class. To make it more competitive, split the class into groups and have them pick one ball from the box in turns.

For every pick, tally the colors on the board and award the same colored scrunchie to the team member with the pick. 

Repeat the activity with a different number of balls for every color.

What they learn

The best part of this project is asking them the mind-boggling questions, making sure to ask for their predictions too.

From the activity, they should learn that sample space entails the entire population of the probability experiment. The ball with the highest number of occurrences in the box has a higher chance for pick up than the rest.

It should also be clear to them that their predictions should lean on the side of the color with the highest scrunchie per team.

This could also be a good chance to teach fractions involved with probability math.

#2. Prize Wheel (Spin & Win)

[9 - 12 yrs]
Child Engaged In Drawing

When you run out of new math concepts to teach, it’s easy to resort to past ideas to get you going through the semester. Luckily enough, you don’t have to!

Prize wheels are common in most places that kids visit like malls. It would be easier for them to relate some notions learnt in class with what they see in real life– and that’s exactly what this is.

You’ll need to step out of the box for this one, giving it a dose of creativity to make it as fun as possible.

What you’ll need

You don’t need to complicate it that much (just make sure your rewards last till the wheel is ready).

  • Cardboard boxes – preferably three large ones.
  • Different colored marker pens for decorations (you can use water colors).
  • Small bolts and nuts for the pivot.
  • Rewards – preferably edibles ones.
  • Cutting blade.
  • Glue.

Activity

  1. Using the cutting blade, cut out three circular wheels of about 25 inches in diameter.
  2. For each wheel, divide the entire circumference into varied fractions with tiny and large portions.
  3. Now the fun part! Decorate the rewards in the divided fractions awarding your best rewards to the tiny fractions and less wanted ones to the larger fractions.
  4. To make the base, cut out two triangular frames for each wheel with a height slightly higher than the diameter of the wheel. This ensures that the wheel doesn’t touch the surface it’s been placed on.
  5. Make holes about an inch near the tip of the triangle, gluing the nuts in place.
  6. Make a hole of a slightly larger diameter compared to the bolt’s diameter.
  7. Firmly attach two of the cut out triangles together leaving about an inch of space in between the triangles. You can use thick strips of the cardboard box with glue to accomplish this.
  8. Position the wheel at the center of the triangular base and align the holes then screw in the bolt to suspend the wheel.
  9. To make the fraction picker, you can make and decorate an arrow then attach it to the top of the triangle pointing upwards.

Give the learners a chance to express themselves through artwork in the process to get the wheel decorated.

How to play

The primary objective here is to establish that it is indeed a game of calculated risk. It accurately describes what probability really is: a calculated chance or likelihood of something happening.

Your budding geniuses can first make a bid on what they want, then spin the wheel and see the results. 

If they land on what they had predicted, then they get the reward.

Why are the bigger fractions easy to get?

#3. Probability Table (A Yummy Project!)

[10 - 13 yrs]
Red Yellow And Green Mms

For you to make math interesting, you must be a little creative. Towards the end of the last semester, I was out to try out a physical fractions math activity with my class. Unfortunately, I left home in a hurry that day and forgot the materials I needed for the activity.

Luckily, I had 3 packs of M&Ms in my drawer and that’s when the magic began.

Knowing the fundamentals of how to map probability spectrums in an intuitive but interesting way can easily scale up your learners’ comprehension of the concept of probability.

In this activity, you’ll learn of a fun way to show how likely something is likely to happen using just candy, two cups, and a piece of paper.

How cool is that?

What you’ll need

  • 4 packs of M&Ms (preferably of different flavors).
  • 8 plastic cups.
  • A marker pen.
  • Large plain pieces of paper.

Activity

Split the class into 4 groups. For each group, give out one pack of the flavors you got alongside two plastic cups. 

To prepare the probability table, follow these steps:

  1. Draw a 3 by 4 table using the marker pen.
  2. Arrange different pieces of M&Ms along the rows and columns of the table.
  3. Fill out a demo on the board to show the different combinations one can pick from each cup then let them try to figure out how to fill up their individual group tables.

Confirm that the table is right for each group as you offer insight on why the table looks the way it looks. For deeper understanding, now proceed to pick one piece from each cup then show the probability from the table.

They can now proceed with the exercise till all the M&Ms are picked. This is also a very good time to show them that all probabilities should add up to 1 for one probability experiment.

Prepare follow up questions to check if they understood the concept.

What is the probability of picking a yellow and red M&M?

#4. The Last Banana (Strategic Thinking)

[13 yrs]

The number one reason why students always report finding probability a challenging topic in math surveys is because the system tends to take a more bland and fixed approach at teaching it.

Not to put a blame on faulty reliance on formula mastery, don’t get me wrong. Probability requires a strategic thinking approach. 

This involves visual and engaging activities like this one.

Try out this popular probability thought experiment with your kid to challenge the way they think about rolling dice.

What you’ll need

  • Bananas.
  • Pieces of paper.
  • Dice.

Activity

This thought experiment aims to flex those brain muscles to make a decision to pick a side which is likely to win. It requires two players.

Tell them to assume they are stranded on an island and that there is only one banana left. 

They decide to roll two dice to see who wins the banana and there is only one condition. Player 1 wins only if the highest number rolled in either 1, 2, 3 or 4 and player 2 wins if the highest number rolled is either 5 or 6.

Now one person picks a side that is likely and the rolling begins. 

After the activity, you should explain to them why player 2 in each group was more likely to win the banana despite the limited set of die faces to win.

Take the two-way table approach as illustrated in the video below:

#5. Knock Out (Equal Chances)

[9 - 12 yrs]

It is worth acknowledging that some events have an equal chance of occurrence. Taking a perfect example of an unbiased coin, for every toss, there is an equal likelihood that you’ll get a head as there is for you to get a tail.

With an introduction of a point system, you can turn this important lesson into a fun math activity so that probability math freight changes to delight.

What you’ll need

  • Coins.
  • Plain pieces of paper.

What to do

Pair up your participants in groups of two then give each group a coin.

  1. Tell each group to draw a T table with members’ names on the columns.
  2. Each member should take a turn to toss the coin.
  3. Before every toss, one picks a side.
  4. For every correct guess, 5 points are awarded and every loss two are deducted.
  5. The first member to reach 100 knocks the other out of the game.

After the activity, they should be able to tell that the coin has an equal probability of landing on either side.

#6. Take the Shot (Proximity)

Probability math doesn’t just stop existing when you close your math textbooks. There is a lot going on around us that involves probability math. This one uses physical education to teach us some probability.

As a plus, you not only work out your kids brain muscles with this activity but also those leg muscles.

What you’ll need

  • A basketball.
  • A basketball hoop.

Activity

Your participant can take turns to take shots from different distances from the hoop. You can take shots from the 3-point line, the inner box, under the rim, and the free shot mark.

It should be obvious that proximity to the rim affects the probability of making a shot. Shots taken from below the rim are more likely to enter the rim compared to ones taken from the 3-point mark.

#7. Bottle Balance

[8 - 10 yrs]
Water Bottles With Different Colored Caps

Towards the peak of COVID back in 2020, bottle balancing was rapidly becoming a popular trending among kids on the internet. I was wondering why all the hype till I tried it myself. 

I was in awe of how thrilling this activity was.

That’s when I first came up with this idea as a math activity. You’ll be shocked how probability gets in.

What you’ll need

  • Water bottles.
  • Some water.

What to do

It’s best if this activity is carried out in groups.

  1. Fill up the bottles with different levels of water for each group.
  2. Let members try to flip the bottles and balance them on tables.

Take Home

Water bottles that were almost half filled were more likely to balance on the table compared to ones that were almost full.

Empty bottles were almost impossible to balance. 

You can tabulate the results to display the probabilities for each bottle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some probability math projects for middle school?

Some probability math projects for middle school you can try out include the last banana, the gallery walk, and pick and go. These activities require no mastery but rather shape your learner’s approach when tackling probability problems. If you need more inspiration, check out my compilation of best math activities for the school breaks!

What are simple experiments you can use for probability?

Picking a card from a deck of cards, tossing a coin, balancing a bottle, and spinning a prize wheel are simple experiments for learning probability. For every event, there is one and only one outcome.

What are examples of probability games?

Probability games that you can use to teach probability include the Blackjack, Yahtzee, and Backgammon. Probability games are a good way to learn how to take a strategic thinking approach to learn probability.

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