When I moved to Minnesota, I learned a new game called Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. This is similar to the game that the rest of the country cleverly calls “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Evidently, in Minnesota, as you are tapping heads, you can call out absurdities such as purple duck or yellow duck. Listening skills at work here; gray duck is the magic color.
[The preceding paragraph has nothing to do with this post, but if you’ve always wondered why Minnesota boasts Duck, Duck, Gray Duck rather than conforming to the rest of the country, now you know.]
Speaking of ducks, Dan Meyer’s newest three-act lesson was coincidentally timely with my probability and statistics progression. Today’s learning target included expected value, so I thought we’d give it a go.
Act 1, Initial Questions:
- Can you actually buy one of those?
- Is that like the diamond ring candles?
- Do any of them have $50, for real?
- Would it be worth it to buy a bunch to get the $50?
- How much do those things cost?
I had them speculate a fair price for one of these duck soaps. We had a discussion about what was meant by “fair” which was productive. Most students settled on a price between $3 and $20. The students also wanted to consider if shipping was included in our pricing. Since we were looking at the price from the Seller’s point of view, it made us wonder if the shipping for Amazon Prime products is passed along to the seller or absorbed by Amazon. We’ll have to address that another day.
Notables in Act 2:
1. When deciding which probability distributions were impossible, students were quick to point fingers at E and F.
After making the connection that the total of all bars must equal one, most students were able to identify B and C as impossible. Arguments ensued over D about whether the two bars would total 1. The ruler confirmed that indeed the bars did not add up to 1.
2. When looking at these distributions and determining how a $5 duck would be bad for business, my students noticed something interesting.
We had some great conversation about which would be worse: losing customers from a faulty product or losing money with too many rich ducks.
3. When determining fair prices for these distributions, I was impressed with my class’s use of an area model. I sometimes supplement the probability unit with activities from IMP’s The Game of Pig and liked their application of a ruggish diagram here. This allowed for a more fluid connection between the value of the duck bill and the probability of that payout.
These are 9th graders, so only a few requested the sequel. Overall, I was pleased with the outcome of this lesson. I feel like the the money duck grabbed their attention more than previous attempts at real-world expected values such as pull-tabs or roulette. I think the kids felt like soapy money is something they can access, and I think their attention to the task reflected that.
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