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Probability & Statistics:

So You Don't Know Beans About Probability?


Today's Snack: Pinch off the ends of a bunch of whole green beans, and steam over boiling water for about 5 minutes. Cool, then chill. At serving time, stir a little mustard into a little sour cream, and use it as a dip for your green beans.





Empty prescription bottle with lid or old film container with lid

Dry beans, fairly large | Paint and paintbrush

Miscellaneous items and glue to decorate containers

Scratch paper and pencil



Use fun scraps to make your bean bottle uniquely your own.


Count out 10 beans per student. Paint the beans with one color on one side, and then when they are dry, turn them over and paint the other side with another color.


Let the paint dry completely and then place your beans in your bean bottle.


To play, shake the beans inside the bottle. Some kids have trouble getting the lid off a prescription bottle, so you can always shake the beans with the palm of your hand over the bottle to keep them from spilling out.


After shaking them for a bit, dump them out on the table.


Here are several ways to practice math with each set of beans:


1.      Probability. Record which color is up for each of the 10 beans for each of 10 rolls. See if the average comes close to 50%. The laws of random chance say that, over time, you have an equal, 50/50 chance of either of the two colors turning up. See if your 10 rolls bear that out.


2.      Multiplication. You already know that you have 10 beans, so how about counting how many beans of each color you got, and then multiplying those two numbers?


3.      Fractions. Older students might enjoy painting more beans in different colors, and then computing fractions and percentages based on how they roll out. Record your findings on the scratch paper.



By Susan Darst Williams Math 2010

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