experiences with games of chance allow students the opportunity to
develop intuitions and conjectures about the nature of probability. A
more formal analysis follows from the students' direct experience of
the game, providing both the experimental and theoretical probability.
The explorations will take 3-4 class periods to complete, depending
on the students' backgrounds. To shorten the time, have groups complete
different activities and then report their results to the class. It is
important to allow enough time for students to discuss the strategies
for approaching the tasks and the interpretations of the results.
Distribute the Is It Fair
activity sheet. You may want to demonstrate the game and discuss
question 1 together so as to prepare the students to address the
question of fairness. Also, use this as an opportunity to review terms
such as outcomes, trials, etc. Circulate and assess student
Teachers may need to assist students in the construction of the tree
diagram for the initial game, but groups should be encouraged to
conduct their analyses of the variations with as little help as
possible. The opportunity to create new versions of a chip game may
generate some interesting ideas, and teachers should encourage students
to present their creations to other groups or to the class. These
sharings may lead to other concepts and questions.
Now distribute A Fair Hopper
activity sheet. In this game, students have a chance to analyze the
outcomes of tossing three coins. Once again, demonstrate the game,
discuss question 1, and let students play. The rules for moving seem to
indicate that player B will win (with 5 of the 7 squares), but
surprisingly, these rules ensure that player A has a much greater
chance of scoring. This counterintuitive situation is likely to
surprise students and helps them realize the importance of a
theoretical analysis. The results of using four coins may also surprise
students and reinforce these ideas.
Introduce the last game using the Happy Hopper
activity sheet. Students must carefully trace the sequences of moves
using the ordered-pair notation. Teachers may want to model this
movement to the whole class. One tactic is to make the island with
masking tape on the floor and have a student enact the sequence of
moves (turns and jumps) by the happy hopper as others record what
happens. Because it is very complex and the hopper can sometimes fall
in the ocean, students may have to play the game many times to develop
an adequate data base for their study. Students with some
computer-programming background may be interested in developing a
computer simulation of "happy hopper."
Selected Solutions to Is It Fair Activity Sheet
3. Assume that the chips are r1-r2 and r1-b2. The outcomes are r1-r1, r1-b2, r2-r1, and r2-b2 (see figure 1). Thus, each player has the same chance (1/2) of scoring.
5. By adding a third chip, eight outcomes result: r1-r1-r1,
r1-r1-r2, r1-b2-r1, r1-b2-r2, r2-r1-r1, r2-r1-r2, r2-b2-r1, and
r2-b2-r2. Four outcomes are all red, so again each player could score
half the time.
6. The eight outcomes are r1-r1-r1, r1-r1-b2, r1-b2-r1,
r1-b2-b2, r2-r1-r1, r2-r1-b2, r2-b2-r1, and r2-b2-b2. The probability
that player A will score is 2/8, so the game is unfair.
8. The eight outcomes are shown in fig. 2. Only two
outcomes show three different colors, so player A has only a 2/8 chance
of scoring; player B has a 6/8 chance of scoring.
9. One possibility is to award player A three points each
time all the colors are different while still allowing player B one
point for tossing two identical colors. Another possibility is to let
stand player A's method of scoring and award player B a point only when
two of one color (white, blue, or red) land faceup.
Selected Solutions to A Fair Hopper Activity Sheet
3. The outcomes are HHH, HHT, HTH, HTT, THH, THT, TTH, and TTT (see fig. 3).
It is impossible to land on H or J. Only the outcomes of HHH and TTT
result in landing on K. Six outcomes result in landing on the I square;
thus the probability of player A scoring is 6/8.
4. One possibility is to award player B three points for each
chip on H, J, or K while limiting player A to one point for each chip
on I. Another is to alternate each turn so that, for instance, A gets I
the first time, then B gets I the second time, and so on.
7. Tosses of HHHH and TTTT result in landing on L (see fig. 4), but all other outcomes end on either J (8) or H (6).
8. Two outcomes land on M, ten outcomes land on K, and twenty outcomes land on I.
Selected Solutions to the Happy Hopper Activity Sheet
2. The hopper can escape only from square (3, 2); it can
never reach bridge (2, 4) because of an orientation change at (2, 3).
Similarly, it will never fall in the ocean at squares (4, 1), (4, 3),
(2, 0), (0, 1), or (0, 3).
Having arrived at the corner squares (1, 1), (1, 3), (3, 3), or (3,
1), half the time the hopper ends in the ocean and the other half the
time on squares (3, 2) or (1, 2) (see fig. 6). Having arrived
at (3, 2), half the time the hopper ends back at H, and half the time
it ends at the bridge (4, 2). Having arrived at (1, 2), half the time
it ends back at H and half the time in the ocean at (0, 2).
Thus, theoretically, after four sets of two tosses:
- 1/8 of the time the hopper is on bridge (4, 2)
- 1/8 of the time in the ocean at (3, 4)
- 1/8 of the time in the ocean at (1, 4)
- 1/8 of the time in the ocean at (1, 0)
- 1/8 of the time in the ocean at (3, 0)
- 1/8 of the time in the ocean at (0, 2)
- 1/4 of the time back at H
If after four sets of two tosses the hopper is at H, then it begins
the circuit again. After the next four sets of two tosses, a
theoretical probability of 1/32 exists of its ending at the bridge (4,
2), or in the ocean at each of squares (3, 4), (1, 4), (1, 0), (3, 0),
or (0, 2). The probability of ending at H again is 1/16, and so on.
Thus, the probability of ending up at the five positions in the ocean
or the one position on the bridge approaches 1/6 as the probability of
returning to H approaches zero. Thus, 5/6 of the time the hopper ends
in the ocean; 1/6 of the time it ends on the bridge. The game is not
3. Because the hopper can never reach (2, 0), adding another
bridge attached to (2, 1) does not improve the chances of escape. A
bridge at (0, 2) will give another possible escape route.
With two possible escape bridges, 1/3 of the time the hopper escapes
and 2/3 of the time it lands in the ocean: still not fair. For the game
to be fair, add a bridge at one of the spots at which the hopper falls
into the ocean (see fig. 7).
6. Five bridges could be added as shown in figure 5.