5th Grade Math : Unit #7 - Probability : Lesson #5

Alphabet Probability

Objective: Students will be able to use probability and statistics to analyze the frequency of letters in the alphabet.
Standards: 6.SP.B.4 MP3 MP4
Subject(s): Math
60 minutes
1 Introduction - 0 minutes

Teaching probability to your class can be a lot of fun because it involves real life manipulatives and activities.  In this activity, students figure out the alphabet letters that shows up the most in the English language.  One of the best things about this lesson is you can "double dip" into ELA by using something you have already read or having your students read the next chapter in their chapter books.  You could teach this lesson thematically along with Ben Franklin and his printing press. 

Probability is Real Life Math
Real World Applications

There is nothing more important than real world application of math, and probability is huge!  Think about it...research in medicine and social sciences are based in statistical methods that come from probability.  It is in politics, genetics, sports, weather reports and insurance policies.  The two areas our country is concerned about for future job holders are in math and science.  These fields are filled with statistics and probability.  

Not only do many job related fields need people well versed in statistics and probability but it is important to teach to children, of all ages,  because it allows learners to reason and make sense of experiences involving change and right now in this every changing world the only constant is change.  This is why the math practices are so important to teach math concepts.  While some math concepts only use one or two math practice, probability can be taught using all math practices. 

Here is another math question for you to ponder.  What is the probability that large hand print on my fridge came from the 6' fourteen year old in my house:0.

How long until I ask him to clean it off? 

2 Engaging Students in Their Learning - 5 minutes

I use an inclusion question to link students previous knowledge and lead them to feel included in their own learning.  Since this is lesson number 5 in a series of 5 lessons there is a lot of previous knowledge. 

I first ask "Remember the other day when we explored the concept of probability?"  Heads nod and thumbs go up (a signal I've taught to be used instead of using voices).  Next "Talk at your table about the definition of probability and share one place, outside of school, where you could use probability."  During this time I am listening for good examples/definitions and any misconceptions students may still have about probability.   

"What did we discover about the probability of certain numbers coming up when you roll a pair of dice?"  We found if a sum had a lot of addends it would appear more often.   This links them to a specific lesson on probability and gives a scaffold to this lesson.

3 Exploration of the Frequency of Alphabet Letters - 30 minutes

Tell your students the objective of the lesson in kid friendly language to give them a goal or direction to follow.

Today we are going to explore the probability of letters in our alphabet being used.  We are going to study how often (the frequency) each of the letters appearing in writing. 

Does anyone have any ideas about how we might do that?  Talk for a minute at your tables about what you think.

Let a number of students share out what they think. 

We are going to follow the scientific process in this lesson.  Review or explain.  This gives students a framework for following a process through the lesson.  Have your students write their answers down.  I use a math journal for this. 

First we start with a question.  Which letters appear the most frequently in our English language? 

Hypothesis - predict - list the five most common letters used in the English language and put a star by the letter you think will be most common.

Second prediction - Share your predictions with your group and arrive at one group prediction. 

List the predictions on the board.

4 Reflection on Student Learning - 5 minutes

Student reflections double retention and can improve behavior.  I use three questions based on (1) content/thinking, (2) collaboration, and (3) social interactions. I call it Reflect 1, 2, 3.

1.  What did you learn about probability from this lesson and how is it different from the other probability lessons?

2.  What social skills were needed during this lesson?

3. What did you do to help another person in your group?