Monday, October 3, 2016

Math and Yahtzee

Cube, Play, Lucky Number, Six, Craps  I enjoy Yahtzee.  I play several games a day on my tablet.  I use a version that allows me to compete against the computer.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.  I get especially frustrated when I put a 0 in Yahtzee and I roll one later in the game.  I do that because I know the odds of a Yahtzee are not very good, so I figure I'm safe.  I'm not always right.

The game was originally released in 1956 by Edwin Lowe who held the rights till 1973 when Milton Bradley bought them.  In 1983, Hasbro purchased the rights but in all those years, it has been an extremely popular game.  The game is said to be based on poker hands so there is a certain amount of probability involved with each roll.

Most of my students do not play Yahtzee.  I'm not sure most even now the game or have heard of it.  I would open with time set aside so students can play it and become more familiar with it before calculating any probabilities.  I found this nice short video on You Tube showing how certain probabilities are calculated 

The math department at Cornell University has a wonderful lesson on Yahtzee beginning by explaining the rules of the game.  It goes into the strategies for successful play before completing 8 problems asking for probabilities of different situations.  I don't know about you but I'm a bit rusty on certain types of probabilities but this lesson includes solutions and the math to get to the answer.

This lesson plan has everything needed to help students explore the probability of various combinations in Yahtzee so students learn more about calculating probabilities in general.  It is geared for 6th grade but it could easily be used above or below that grade with a bit of tweaking.

Although this is not a lesson plan the explanations for finding certain probabilities is great because it breaks it down well.  I like the way the author has explained the material.

I plan to teach this towards the end of the year and before I do anything on the actual lesson, I am going to have my students predict the odds of say a Yahtzee or three of a kind before they explore the actual probabilities.  I believe my state requires students to make predictions and carry out experimental activities.  This game makes a perfect item to create an actual experiment with predictions, finding data, etc.