Education Technology

Modeling Probabilities

Published on 05/22/2013

Activity Overview

This activity approaches probability distributions as functions taking information about a dataset as inputs and outputting a set of probabilities. This is analogous to the familiar process of choosing a function to model a set of x-y pairs. Students use simulations to explore increasing number of trials. The normal distribution is introduced, compared with the binomial distribution, and applied.

Key Steps

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    In Problem 1, students simulate a binomial experiment using the custom function coinflip. When the simulation runs, each row of the table displays the number of heads that occurred for a trial. Students repeat the process using different numbers of trials to determine the shape of the histogram.

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    In Problem 2, students explore probability distributions. They simulate 10 flips, for 50 trials in Column A. Then they use a histogram to determine and record the number of times an outcome occurs in the experiment in Column C. Lastly, students will use a formula to calculate the experimental probabilities.

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    Students will compare the experimental probabilities with the probabilities calculated with the binomPdf and normPdf commands to determine which distribution best models each situation.