How, then, can we engage children in such a way that ensures they build a solid foundational understanding of this important mathematical area?
Since many of my students have developed strong oral language skills this year, especially when working with a partner or in a very small group, I developed a series of lessons that drew heavily on the instructional strategy of "think-pair-share", and banked on Van De Walle's games-rich chapter on probability. We spun spinners, rolled dice, made and tested predictions, played "hockey" and other goal-based games that depended on predicting outcomes. But first, we explored the basic vocabulary of probability: chance, possible, certain, impossible, likely, unlikely, equally likely....
A number of scenarios were presented on the board, and students had to discuss whether each was certain, possible, or impossible. Then we moved each scenario into the appropriate part of a Venn diagram on the Interactive White Board.
Lots of wait time was provided for students to consider and discuss each scenario, and as you can see from the photo above, they were quite engaged: For once, every student was either looking at the screen, or discussing the scenario with nearby neighbours!
Finally, after lots and lots of thinking and rich talk, I asked students to work on their own to write down a few examples of things that were likely, impossible, certain, etc. I used this exit ticket as a diagnostic assessment to see what level of understanding most of the learners were at in order to fine tune my next lesson, which involved a series of probability math games.