Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Week 19: Probability

Classical Conversations Cycle 3 Week 19 Probability
I've posted my lab sheet for this lab on CC Connected (user name lb_oliver). My thoughts here will dovetail with that approach. You can also see my suggestions for ways to expand on this topic in my post here.

First, if you’ve got a better handle on these labs than me, stop reading now and move on.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on the subject.

But, if you don’t, or you’re just looking for someone else’s perspective, here are my 2¢.

Let’s begin with the end in mind. What’s the point of this particular lab? In my opinion, for our Classical Conversations Foundations students, it’s twofold:

  1. Helpful approach to tutoring CC Cycle 3 Week 19's Science lab!Grammar: To teach some basic statistics grammar (Probability, Outcome) and to see those terms applied.
  2. Dialectic: To begin teaching children to think about the “probability” that something (anything) could occur.

So, if you’re teaching a group of YOUNGER STUDENTS, you’ll want to focus on the grammar and getting children to use it and understand it. Set your objectives (and your bar for feeling successful) accordingly. Focus on the terms. Use them clearly during your lesson. Move through the “warm-up” slowly. Help them to really think about what you’re asking. You can use the term “probability” and “chances” (or other synonyms – likelihood, expectation, etc.) interchangeably, while you’re talking. Just be keep coming back to the term “probability” so they begin to understand what that term means. In addition, for some young students, this will be the first time that they hear the term “tally marks” and see them used. For them, that’s good stuff! Take the time to explain them and show them quickly how they work. I also suggest for younger children that they do this lab in pairs of two with a parent assigned to each pair to help with counting and making tally marks.

If you’re teaching a group of OLDER STUDENTS, you can probably move through the warm up more quickly as they catch on to what you’re asking and how it relates to the chips in your hand. You might need to quickly review tally marks before allowing them to start performing and recording their results. These students can work individually or in teams. Once they’ve completed the lab, you can add up the results of the class to see how they might have differed from individual results. Explain to them that while their individual results might have varied, that 20 is really not very many draws. Over time, with even more draws, the results of the experiment would be 1/2. Then, use the lab to begin to expand their ability to use logic. What would they need to start with in order to GUARANTEE they could get the results they wanted to? They’d have to start with chips that were all the same color. Even if there was only one chip of a different color in the mix, at some point, with enough draws, you’d pull that color out. So, the only way to be sure you can get the results you want, if you only want to draw a white chip, for example, is to start with all white chips. This seems totally logical to many of us as adults, but we take for granted that children have the same ability to be logical that we do. Their minds are all at different points in beginning to make those leaps, so this is a great exercise for them, and you will likely discover that you have some children who understand it immediately and others who are slower to grasp it (or are silent as they work through it in their heads).

For ADULTS/PARENTS– Why do we care? Why are we doing these labs? What is the point of this with children this age?

The science of origins is the effort of scientists to explain how the universe began.  The science grammar that we’ll learn in these 6 weeks is the basic definition of different ways used to explain how life began and developed. As always, YOU are the teacher. You decide how (or if) you want to elaborate on this at home. Tutors will drill the sentences/definitions. You decide what you want to teach your child. The science labs involve an introduction to basic statistics (probability, odds, combinations, etc.). Probability relates to the science of Origins because data is collected and analyzed and different and opposing conclusions are often drawn from the same data! Learning how to collect, record and analyze data is a skill that all scientists use. Gathering data, analyzing data and drawing conclusions are very much a part of many explanations of the origins of the universe. Eventually, our children will need to be able to draw their own conclusions from data that is presented to them. These labs are a great introduction to early critical thinking skills.


Photo credit: Flickr


  1. Thank you for your enlightening comments…I am a Journeymen tutor, and you’ve made Probability & Outcomes/Week 19 easier for me to understand and to explain my students. I also appreciate how you addressed adults/parents. Thank you again!

  2. Thank you so much for your amazingly helpful post about week 19. Will you be writing other posts for any subsequent weeks of probability?

    1. Yes! That’s my plan. I actually hope to have Week 20 (Combinations) out in the next day or two because I know folks may be ahead of us (or wanting to plan ahead). 🙂

  3. I am new to CC. I just looked up your work on CC connected. Will you be doing more of the notebooks? I love what you have done.

    Thank you for sharing your hard work with people like me who are not gifted at computers.


    1. You’re very welcome! And welcome to CC! I’m not sure what you mean by notebook, though. I’ve put quite a few things on CC Connected over the years, and I’m just not sure which one you’d call a notebook. 🙂

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