Probability is an important topic in mathematics since it explores collecting, describing, organising, and analysing numerical data. So, whether you’re trying to make sense of a weather report, election results, or product reference surveys, you’ll need a basic understanding of probability and statistics. In fact, students need to understand these concepts to help them judge the validity of an argument which is commonly supported by persuasive data.
High school probability requires students to learn and work with fractions and decimals, as well as developing an understand of various terminology and symbols. They must be able to apply the sum of probabilities to solve problems, while also identifying complimentary events. Students use and create graphical displays including venn diagrams, arrays and tree diagrams to solve various problems.
In addition, they must construct sample spaces for single-step experiments to get the ideal outcome. This means they must assign probabilities to the outcomes of events and determine their probabilities.
Lastly, students must learn how to compare and construct a range of data displays, including steam-and-leaf plots and dot plots. This will help them identify and investigate issues that involve numerical data.
Issues around the teaching of probability
Probability is often the last topic of the year, so many students are tired without the focus they had earlier in the year. Teachers often rush through this topic as time is running out and students are losing interest. Not to mention that students find it daunting to learn new symbols and terminologies.
Another issue is that most of the topics in probability are not linked or integrated, so it’s harder for students to retain the information.
How to help students learn and retain concepts within probability
Maths is definitely a tough subject to teach, but probability is one of the easier topics to make fun and engaging. Teachers can introduce games for the students to practice and apply their learning. This hands on approach will help students retain the skills and understanding required for successful completion of the game.
It is also advisable to group students together during games and problem solving tasks. Students can often learn more by actively working through problems with their peers. However, it is important to watch out for students who are not participating in the group. This situation can sometimes be avoided by assigning roles to each student in the group.
Following games, investigations and problem solving tasks, students can complete reflections or discussion questions. This will help consolidate their knowledge and give the teacher insight into their level of understanding.