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Considine S00104877

Literature Synthesis

Tuesday 12-2 pm

When people hear the term Probability, or chance, they often think of the

likelihood of something happening. This is the same for children, however what people forget, is that children find these concepts are hard to grasp. From a young age, children are exposed to complex probabilistic thought processes, yet educators still dont place a high emphasis on teaching probability in the classroom. With any luck, and the addition of statistics and probability becoming one of three main mathematical content stands in the Australian curriculum, the lack of emphasis on these fundamental skills in the classroom will be corrected. When finding a starting point for teaching probability educators should go back to the foundations underpinning probability which include being able to quantify, or at least order, the likelihood of certain events happening (Chick, 2006, p. 82). For many children, when exploring probabilistic thinking for the first time in a formal setting, they will be able to share and extensive range or prior knowledge and experiences about probability in their lives. For many children they will not realise just how much they know about chance just by the language they use in everyday conversation. For educators, undertaking areas of chance, probability and statistics in the classroom for the first time, there are considerations to be taken into consideration. Regardless of the year level, when exploring probability, educators are reminded that there is more than one type of thinking about probability. These thought processes include Subjective, Experimental and Theoretical probability. Barnes (1998) establishes the differences between these terms in her article; Subjective probability is the amount of belief someone has that something will happen, experimental probability is the frequency of an event occurring in a set of trials and theoretical probability is based on the analysis of the outcomes achieved in a random test. For many children their ideas of probability will fall under the first category of subjective probability (Barnes, 1998) as there understandings are derived from ideas they have gained from prior experiences and language heard at home. With this in mind, educators

Lauren Considine S00104877

Literature Synthesis

Tuesday 12-2 pm

should contextualise classes to make all probability content explored in school more meaningful as it will make these complex ideas easier to understand. Unfortunately for educators, there is a fine line for contextualising, and although there is a place for context when teaching, it can cause problems in the classroom too. Context can cause some uneducated notions with the way in which children approach and interpret probability tasks. In some instances, using common occurrences may be too unpredictable for young children, or they may lack a clear theoretical basis on which to verify the results (Frykholm, 2001, p.113). Vitally it is important that educators balance context with theory of probability to give children the best opportunity to succeed in this complex mathematics strand. Conversely, encouraging probabilistic language is one of the easiest ways for many educators may find to get children to understand probability, especially when exploring the learning area for the first time. Approaching situations by getting children to discuss the likelihood of things happening using language such as very likely or unlikely will covertly encourage children to start thinking statistically. Furthermore by teachers making these ideas present throughout multiple classes, children should begin to create understandings about probability and the way language can affect the way we interpret understandings about findings. Within the early years of primary school, childrens thinking at a young age is centered around intuition (Frykholm, 2001; Tarr, 2002), therefore the emphasis is should be placed on making probability lessons through experience. Children are able to understand on a basic level the ideas surrounding probability. Children explore contexts, investigate, make predictions and engage in probabilistic thinking through the use of hands- on models (Frykholm, 2001, p.113). Although probability doesnt heavily feature in the Australian curriculum for the first few years of school, that doesnt mean educators should leave it out of that classroom altogether. What many educators fail to realise is that

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Literature Synthesis

Tuesday 12-2 pm

probability tasks reinforce number sense holistically and benefit other mathematic content strands (Frykholm, 2001; Tarr 2002). In the later years of primary school children should be able to understand that probabilities can be expressed using fractions, decimals and percentages (ACARA, 2011; Tarr, 2002). Understanding this can help further their understanding of probability in informal language to concrete data. Although in the later years, the biggest focus when it comes to probability is the variation between experiments. This knowledge is also one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to probabilistic ways of thinking. Take a moment to think, how many adults take into consideration the authenticity of results or data collected and recorded as findings without thinking about how extensive the sample space was and holistic experiment was when undertaken. Furthermore how many adults think that their chances of winning on the horses or pokies increase the longer they play? Surely their luck will turn around right? Well apparently this notion is established from a young age. It was Found that some children held misconceptions about the role of the sample size and thought that their chance of winning increased if they played a longer game (Aspinwall. & Tarr. 2002, p. 107). Researchers also found further misconceptions that children believe that there are bias with coin tosses or loaded dice, giving unequal chances of rolling all numbers when playing most games (Barnes, 1998; Dunn 2004) Educators have the important role to teach children about how different sample sizes effect the way findings are recorded and interpreted, teaching children that there arent bias coins or dice but rather a lack of correct sample space giving them a biased interpretation. It is imperative that we teach children about all the areas probability from

the day they walk into the classroom. As you can tell from this paper the areas of probability are hard to grasp and all take time to understand. Over time and with experience, children will develop their understandings and more efficiently be able to identify what should happen in a given situation. Moreover by providing children with meaningful and frequent classes in this area will help children

Lauren Considine S00104877

Literature Synthesis

Tuesday 12-2 pm

become more statistical in their thinking. Furthermore hopefully the changes to the curriculum a higher emphasis will be rightly placed on the importance of probability in the classroom. Word count: 1046

LEARNING FOCUS Children are beginning to understand how the number of trials within an experiment can affect the ability to record and analyse results accurately. References: Aspinwall, L. & Tarr. J. (2002). TAKE TIME FOR ACTION: The Number of Trials "Does" Matter. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School , 8 (2), 106-108. ACARA. (2011). Mathematics. Retrieved Ausust 12, 2012, from The Australian Curriculum http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/Mathematics/Curriculum/F-10 Barnes, M. (1998). Dealing with misconceptions about probability. AMT , 54 (1), 17-20. Chick, H. (2006). Big ideas in chance. Paper presented at the Mathematics- the way forward: 43rd conference of the Mathematical Association of Victoria, Brunswick, Victoria. Dunn, P. (2004, September). Dicey Statistics. Teaching Mathematics , 18-24. Frykholm, J. A. (2001). Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe... Building on Intuitive Notions of Chance. Teaching Children Mathematics , 112-118. Smith, R., & Taylor, S. (1998). Dealing with Chance: Prep to year 4. In J. Gough, & J. Mousley. (Eds.), Mathematics: exploring all the angles (Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference on the Mathematical Association of Victoria, pp. 401-408). Brunswick, Victoria: Mathematical Association of Victoria. Tarr, J. (2002, April). Providing opportunities to Learn Probability Concepts. Teaching Children Mathematics , 483- 487.

Lauren Considine S00104877

Literature Synthesis

Tuesday 12-2 pm