Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Probability or Ability?

MAdele Carson
Santa Rosa District Schools


Students test probabilty by catching candy.


The student represents all possible outcomes for a simple probability situation or event using models such as organized lists, charts, or tree diagrams.

The student calculates the probability of a particular event occurring from a set of all possible outcomes.


-Large bag of small candies-- M & M's, jelly beans, SweeTarts, red hots, or gummi bears
-Paper plates 1 per 2 students
-Chart (attached file)
-Coins (one per group)
-Paper for assessment unless back of chart is used


1. Have candy divided so that each student will have 20 pieces.
2. Pair students up in order for one student to chart the catches.
3. Have areas where the students will be able to move easily.


1. Explain the procedure for catching a piece of candy using the non-dominant hand and the rules that the students will follow. (Candy that hits the floor must be thrown away and will be replaced, etc.) Remind students that there are only two outcomes--you catch it or you don't catch it.

2. In the second-to-last column of their charts, have the student predict how many pieces (out of 10) he/she can catch in the non-dominant hand. (Right handed kids use their left hands to catch)

3. While the partner keeps score, one child will attempt to catch the candy. The partner marks each throw with a check or an 'x' .

4. When the student is finished with the first 10, the partner takes a turn. The first catcher now records the partner's catches.

5. Have the students predict how they will do the second time. Ask if they have changed their predictions from the first time and why. Possible answers are that they were better or worse than they thought or they have gotten the 'hang of it' and should improve.

6. Explain how the outcome can be changed by practice.

7. When both students have done both sets, ask if there were any interesting observations about the experiments. (Most should see an improvement in their ability to catch the candy.) Ask if those that changed their predictions were closer the second time.

8. Using a coin, have the students predict how many times they can call a coin toss -heads- in ten throws. Have them write their predictions down in the second-to-last column.

9. Taking turns, with one of each pair keeping the score, have the students toss a coin ten times (calling -heads- each time).

10. Before the second try, have the students again predict the outcome.

11. After all groups have finished tossing the coins for two sets of ten, ask how their predictions changed from the first try to the second try. (It shouldn't have changed much. They should see that they don't have control over the coin toss like they would catching candy in the non-dominant hand.)


Students compare and contrast the two different probability experiments. With the candy, they should write whether the prediction was different (or alike) the number they actually caught in both tries. To assess their understanding, their writing should reflect: the difficulty of the action; how repeated attempts improved the number of successful catches; the second try's success percentage was higher; and that some skill was required.
In writing about the coin toss, their writing should reflect that they only had a 50/50 chance of getting heads and that the prediction was (probably) close to 5. Their writing should reflect their reasoning behind the scores they did get.


The students could use dice, or coins, to see if they could predict the outcomes of throws. This lesson will help them to understand that what they may think of as ability is probability and vice versa.

Attached Files

Probability Chart.     File Extension: pdf

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.