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Probability: Rock Around The Clock

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Probability: Rock Around The Clock

In this math lesson, learners apply the Monte Carlo method of simulation to determine a reasonable estimate. Learners are introduced to the problem of determining a reasonable number of packs of gum they would have to purchase in order to obtain all 6 cards containing pictures of famous entertainers, past and present. Learners simulate this problem by selecting disks numbered 1-6. The outcome of each draw is recorded. In groups, learners are given spinners, cups and disks, and number cubes and told to choose any simulation they wish to start with, but will rotate through all of them eventually. Results are recorded on different colored Post Its. The Post It results are then placed on a number line. Learners discuss the overall results and describe how they determined a reasonable number of packs of gum to be purchased. Variance in the result due to the type of simulation used is discussed and the idea of fair vs. unfair is explored.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)


  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
      • Probability
    • Number and Operations
    • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Music


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Common Core State Standards for Mathematics:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All Rights Reserved, PBS, ©2012

Funding Source:

  • US Department of Education


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