Responses to the Plinko Applet “From Cool to Useful #1:”

Thanks for the responses to my previous blog post, where responses can be read.   I was  surprised at the diversity  of responses and ideas with the Plinko applet.  I also appreciated the feedback from others who suggested ways that this applet can be improved and  made more capable of generating discussions (with, of course, our careful questions and  monitoring to help).     Here’s what I am thinking about the most:

1.   The important of “toggling off and on”   different features in the applet –   the more options, the better.  Many folks observed that the answer to possible questions were “given away”  by things that were presented by default.

2.  The inevitable divergence of questions that will  emerge from us teachers and from  our students  the more open-ended we get with the questions.

3. I thought about the importance of having students ask / wrestle with questions  at both the “micro”  and “macro”  level of this applet.  I liked thinking about questions where students wonder about the result of individual  outcomes of the “ball fall:”

  • Where will the ball fall?  Where will it not fall?
  • Will it always fall there?
  • How far from  the “most likely place?”
  • Do you expect any “streaks” in the path of a single ball?
  • If so, how long?
At the “macro level,”  questions emerged about the relationships between different parameters
  • What’s the most likely bin if we change  p?  What’s the expected outcome  Is there a relationship between p, n, and the expected  outcome?
  • How far from the “most likely” bin should we expect in the long run?
  • How does the shape of the overall distribution change as we adjust n and p?
  • How long will it take before we see a streak of all left or all right pathways?
These questions are by no means a lesson plan, but  each one is a legitimate mathematical question, in my view.

About roughlynormal

I have been a math/statistics teacher for 25 years. I currently teach at an independent school in southern California. I also coach teaching fellows for Math for America - Los Angeles chapter. I love my career, my colleagues, and my friends & family.
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