Some Games for Teaching College-level Probability Concepts
Pete K
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Recently I taught an introductory statistics course at a local community college. While I was given a textbook, calculator and detailed list of course objectives, the policy of the college actually gave me a lot of room for creativity. I was to teach the material, but also engage the class in an "active learning environment." I remember not enjoying being forced into groups in my days as a student (I felt like I was doing much of the teaching for the professor in some cases), so I decided to construct a number of game-like activities to demonstrate some probability concepts. My textbook did not bridge the probability chapter with subsequent chapters to my satisfaction, so I was doubly motivated to use activities in order to make the probability concepts stick.

Popular examples of in-class demonstrations seemed rather rudimentary for a college course: drawing marbles out of a bag, flipping coins to observe "runs" or heads or tails outcomes, etc. I therefore turned to my own recent experiences to find simpler, smaller games that I could reproduce for several student groups, teach the rules, and obtain follow-up responses in the span of 45 minutes.

This geeklist is a compilation of my efforts in using low-complexity games to help teach probability concepts. I plan to include six of my own session reports here, but I encourage others to add items and comment about their own experiences.

If nothing else, these activities helped socialize the class to some extent, as students had to work together to 1.) figure out the game rules, 2.) carry out the activity, and 3.) answer my follow-up questions. I was also able to refer back to these hands-on experiences in subsequent lectures.

It's not good BGG etiquette to have a long geeklist header, so I will include my "lessons learned" in the commentary.


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Pete K
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I used the game Timeline to demonstrate different levels of measurement, based on the Stevens theory of measurement. I am not completely convinced that this topic is the best approach to data collection, but it was part of the course objectives and textbook.

Fortunately, my "median salaries" version of Timeline worked well for this purpose.
 
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Pete K
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To tackle the concepts of relative frequency and histograms, I chose to use the game Can't Stop. The board of Can't Stop is essentially a modified histogram of the outcomes of four dice rolls, and the game is essentially a series of push-your-luck decisions about which outcomes are likelier than others.

Yahtzee may also be a good game to use for relative frequency, but it does not use bars of a histogram as a board.
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Pete K
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For conditional probability I used the game No Thanks, one of my absolute favorites. It's just so easy to teach and play, and the students were able to get a feel for making uncertain decisions very quickly.

Perhaps a number of other, more recent microgames could also be considered, but these tend to rely on bluffing. This course was a mathematics course and one of my overarching goals was to take emotion out of decision making under conditions of uncertainty.
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Pete K
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I used the print-and-play game Coin Age to experiment with the binomial distribution. Despite its size, Coin Age was a bit too complicated for the time I set aside for it.

 
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Pete K
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In the game Gops (Game Of Pure Strategy), each player starts with a hand of all 13 cards of a (non-diamonds) suit. They then use these cards to bid for the 13 diamonds cards as they are turned over from a draw deck.

How much does winning or losing this game owe to luck?

If luck has a significant role in the outcome, where does it come from?
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Pete K
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This activity was inspired by what I saw of a strange game called Igloo Pop. Students shook jars and guessed the number of peppercorns inside, leading to data collection and calculation of confidence intervals.

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