What are the chances of winning the lottery?
Is your football team's place in the league tables down to luck or to skill?
If a lie detector test with an accuracy rate of 95% says you are guilty, what is the chance you are innocent?
Mathematics can help us understand the role that chance, luck and uncertainty plays in the world around us, and an understanding of statistics and probability can help us make better-informed decisions. In collaboration with Professor David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, University of Cambridge, we've launched What are the Odds? - the Hands-On Probability Show to help Key Stage 2 to 5 students explore real-world examples of probability in action through interactive presentations and game-show style workshops.
We can bring the Hands-On Probability Show to schools to run a special mathematics enrichment event for Key Stages 2 to 5. The aim is to bring mathematics alive, complementing what students learn in class and helping to bridge the gap between curriculum mathematics and real-world applications.
How it works:
There are three different formats for the Hands-On Risk and Probability Show. The format you choose will depend on the number of students and their learning styles.
Format 1: An initial 50-60min presentation to the full group of students who will take part during the day. Students then return in groups of no more than 30 students at a time to participate in the interactive "Who Wants to be a Mathionaire?" game-show workshop sessions, each lasting 50-60 minutes, in which they use hand-held electronic voting devices to take part in a series of challenges exploring the mathematics of probability. The workshop can be repeated a maximum of 5 times (full day - twice in a half day) until all students have taken part.
Format 2: A two hour 'hands-on' session involving up to 30 students. The first hour will involve a circus of hands-on activities requiring students to hypothesise, experiment, and explain key concepts of probability and uncertainty. During the second hour, students will participate in the "Who Wants to be a Mathionaire?" game-show as in Format 1. A maximum of three sessions in a whole day and one session in a half day.
Format 3: Repeated one hour 'hands-on' sessions involving up to 30 students. The sessions may either be the circus of hands-on activities, or "Who Wants to be a Mathionaire?" game-show as in Format 2. A maximum of six sessions in a whole day and three sessions in a half day. This format is particularly suitable when students are involved in a carousel of short activities throughout the day.
The accompanying Teachers' Pack gives links to complementary resources and ideas for follow-up activities, as well as outlining the learning outcomes of the Hands-On Risk and Probability Show and how it links to the National Curriculum. Complementary resources are also available on NRICH. The Hands-On Risk and Probability Show is co-ordinated and delivered by Dr James Grime.
James Grime can set up the Hands-On Risk and Probability Show presentation and workshop activities in your large hall, theatre, classroom or similar. The venue must have chairs for all students involved to be seated comfortably in rows, as well as a projector screen, and two long desks at the front for James's equipment. It is useful if a computer projector and speakers are available, however James can bring his own if necessary. The room needs to be available all day.
See a suggested floor plan for Format 1. For Formats 2 & 3, there will need to be groups of tables with a minimum of four and maximum of six students to a table - see a suggested floor plan for Formats 2 & 3.
Cost and booking information:
The cost for a Hands-On Risk and Probability Show visit is £595 for a full day or £415 for a half day, plus travel costs (charged at 45p/mile from Cambridge) and accommodation where necessary. Cancellation costs apply. Please see our cancellation policy.
For more information or to make a booking contact James Grime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feedback from teachers:
'Our pupils enjoyed the practical examples that they could put into context and easily understand. The pupils were buzzing afterwards with how much they enjoyed themselves, and how much they had learnt.’
Helena Lewer, Connaught School, Hampshire
‘All of them were delighted with your talk and were really full of praise. They really enjoyed it.’
Dr Jean Charpin, Senior Research Fellow and Outreach Coordinator. MACSI, Limerick, Ireland
'The event allowed our school to create a network between local schools and to increase collaboration and sharing of good practice for the teaching of Gifted and Talented Students. It also gave us the opportunity to raise the profile of Mathematics within the school as an interesting subject which has a lot of connection with the real world.’
Dr Cyrille Bouche, St Benedict’s Catholic School, Suffolk
‘The material was presented in a visually stimulating way and provided excellent opportunities for speaking and listening development.’
B. Scholtz, Swanlea School, London
‘Went beyond some aspects of the curriculum which was good for extending pupils.’
Sachin Sukhdeo, The Hawthorns School, Surrey
‘The most useful element is the visual aspect, the fact that the children were fully engaged via the handsets and it was suitable for a number of age groups.’
Mr. P. Yearsley. St Edmund’s Junior School, Canterbury.
‘A very enjoyable day, and lots of learning taking place. Thank you!’
Sheila Cattlin, Reepham High School, Norwich
‘The format was fantastic. Watching the students play Mathionaire was great, what a fantastic energy it created!’
Philip Kurbis, Munich International School, Germany
‘The variety of practical applications, contexts and how they could be applied to real life really impressed the boys. They were consequently engaged throughout. An excellent presentation, which was well put together, relevant and inspiring to young minds!’
Tim Cooper, Hampton School, Middlesex
‘The most appealing element is the real life applications, especially in light of the functional element of GCSE.’
Trudy Le Maitre, Amery Hill School, Hampshire
'Probability lessons may teach children how to weigh life's odds and be winners': The Times, 5th January 2009
'Professor Spiegelhalter has developed programmes for teaching risk literacy, based on familiar subjects such as the National Lottery and football league tables, which his team is introducing to schools through a "Risk Roadshow". ... "I regard myself as part of a movement we call risk literacy," Professor Spiegelhalter told The Times. ..."We should essentially be teaching the ability to deconstruct the latest media story about a cancer risk or a wonder drug, so people can work out what it means. Really, that should be part of everyone's language." As an aspect of science, risk is "as important as learning about DNA, maybe even more important," he said. ... We can do it as part of maths outreach, maths inspiration, which is a real privilege because we can make it fun.'
'"Risk literacy" for high schoolers gains currency in bid to boost decision making': Chicago Tribune, 1st March 2009
'With stock portfolios in free fall and jobs in limbo, just about everyone these days is wondering about their ability to assess risks. Headlines full of warnings about threats from climate change to cancer risks don't make it any easier to know what really merits worry and how much of it. David Spiegelhalter, a University of Cambridge mathematician, aims to help. As part of a new push by Bristish high schools to teach statistical skills, he's helping students - and others - get a basic grasp of probabilities to help them correctly judge risks and make better decisions. ... Starting this winter, he and colleagues are launching a "Risk Roadshow" for British middle school and high school students, aimed at teaching how basic statistical principles can improve decision-making.