Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why, Timmies, Why?

You may have noticed that i've installed a Roll Up the Rim to Win tally on the sidebar. This is NOT to demonstrate how sleep deprived i am or how proficient i am with my coffee waltzing. It is to show how real life probability examples are everywhere for your students to track and talk about.

For example, the Tim Horton's cup claims that the odds of winning are 1 in 9. What does that mean? If i buy 9 coffees, am i guaranteed to win at least once? At the time i write this, i have won twice and purchased six coffees? What is my ratio? Am i super lucky? Should i buy a lottery ticket? These types of discussions can occur in the math class, and be extended at home, if students' parents are frequent coffee drinkers.

For the older grades, students could try and predict how many more coffees need to be purchased before their parent/guardian wins something. You could even explore the accuracy of Tim Horton's claim of a 1 in 9 chance of winning. There was some controversy regarding this in years past, because the coffee franchise chain actually distributes their (grand) prizes somewhat evenly on a geographical basis. When you examine the population density across the country, there is NOT an even distribution, which means that people living outside of Ontario actually do have a better chance at winning than those in Ontario. The odds of 1 in 9 are derived from national statistics, but are in fact different for various regions across Canada. To read more about this, click here.

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