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Probability Lesson for Middle School Math



Probability lesson for middle school math

Have you tried this Mathline​ probability lesson? If not, you may want to give it a try – “Rock Around the Clock” is a great activity for your middle school math students!

In this lesson, students are presented with a contest situation: in packs of gum, there are photographs of six different rock stars. The first person to collect all six pictures,  AND take them to the radio station that is sponsoring the contest, will win an all-expense-paid trip to any location in the US.

The Question
The question posed to the students is this – “What is a reasonable number of packs of gum you should purchase in order to collect all six pictures?” This question is discussed as a class….to think about the fewest number of packs possible, but also to consider how many packs would be reasonable.

Simulating the Contest 
The students are put into groups and each group is given materials to simulate the contest. I have used this lesson twice; once I used dice and once I used colored disks (on which I wrote the rock stars’ names). When using the dice, students simply roll the die and then record the number that was rolled (each rock star would need to be assigned a number). When using the disks, the students picked a disk from a cup, recorded the star that was chosen, and then returned the disk to the cup.
The lesson suggests that each student complete their own trial; I had the groups complete two trials together rather than each student completing their own. I also had all groups use the same materials – the dice one year and the disks another (the lesson plan suggests that the students use dice, spinners, OR disks for their trials and that the lesson then include a discussion about the possible differences in results based on the method used….I did not address this part, but it is definitely an option, especially if you have a longer math period).

Probability lesson: Rock Around the Clock recording sheet

Recording Results
S​tudents record their responses to discussion questions and their trial results on the sheet pictured here. (I changed some of the rock star names from the original lesson to names that students would better recognize.) Each time a “rocker” is chosen, students place a tally by his/her name, even if they already got that rock star. They will need to know the total number of packs bought to get all six stars, so they must be sure to tally the rock stars from each “pack of gum,” even if they get the same star 10 times.

The lesson suggests giving students Post-Its and having them place the Post-Its on a number line to create a histogram that displays the different number of times it took students to get all six stars in the different trials. Because of time constraints, we didn’t do this, but rather shared and discussed our numbers for students’ trials.The students definitely enjoy this activity and understand the concept that they may need to buy quite a few packs of gum to get all six rock stars.

The original “Rock Around the Clock” lesson can be found here. Another excellent probability lesson is Remove One – definitely a student favorite!

​What are your favorite probability lessons?


Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!



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