Math at Home Math Access for Teachers
and Home Child Care Providers

CME Group Community Foundation

 

 

Heads or Tails?

In a partnered game, children will flip a penny and collect points
depending on whether the penny lands heads up or tails up.

 
Content Area Standard Target
  • Data Analysis and Probability
  • Formulate questions that can be addressed with data and collect, organize, and display relevant data to answer them
  • Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data
  • Sort and classify objects according to their attributes and organize data about objects
  • Discuss events related to students’ experiences as likely or unlikely
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Obtain materials Obtain the Materials
 

Note: Small parts create a choking hazard for children. Make sure that all materials you choose to use for an activity or lesson with children meet safety requirements. Small parts are not appropriate for children who are 5 years of age or younger.

   
Introduce the activity Introduce the Activity
 
  1. Demonstrate flipping a coin and calling “Heads or Tails” before the coin lands on the surface. 
  2. Play a quick game of Heads or Tails before explaining probability and how partners can play the game.  Have all the children stand in a circle around you as you flip the coin.  Ask how many children think the coin will land on heads?  Those children will sit down after the coin is flipped and the children who thought that the coin would land on tails will stay standing.  Play this game several times.
  3. Introduce probability - the chance that something is going to happen.  Explain to the children that they are going to explore the concept of probability by flipping a coin and collecting the data.
  4. Ask the children whether or not they can control which side of the coin lands face up.  Why or why not?  “Heads or Tails” is a game of chance.  When you play the game you are going to guess which side will probably land face up.  That’s called probability.” 
  5. Give the children examples of probability in real life scenarios – “The weather man said it will probably rain today but, it may not.”
   
Engage the children Engage the Children
 
  1. Explain that the game will be played in pairs and that one player will be heads and one player will be tails.  Say: “You will play 2 rounds with 10 penny tosses.  You will each get a chance to be heads and will also get a chance to be tails.”
  2. Explain the recording sheet. Say: “Player 1 will go first.  Before the first roll, Player 1 will decide if they want heads or tails.  Let’s say, they call heads.  If the penny lands on heads, they get a point and record the point in the Player 1 column.  If the penny lands on tails, Player 2 gets a point and records it in the Player 2 column.”  Show the exact columns you are referring to as you are explaining the directions.  You may want to model a couple of rounds so that the children get the idea of one player playing for 10 coin tosses and then Player 2 taking their turn.
  3. When they are all done, ask who won each game.  "Did you think it was a fair game?"  "Why or why not?"  "Do you think you get practice to get better at this game?"  "Why or why not?"

Additional Extensions

  • Play with 2 coins.  Again, the player calls either heads or tails.  Both coins need to be the side the player calls in order for the player to receive a point.  If both coins land of the opposite sides then the other player gets a point and if the two coins land on head and tails, no one gets a point.
   
Encourage vocabulary Encourage Vocabulary
 
  • Probability – The chance that something is going to happen (e.g., "What is the probability that the coin will land on heads?")

Glossary of MATH vocabulary

   
Make adaptations Make Adaptations
 

Supporting Children at Different Levels

Toddlers   Pre-K

Toddlers may:

  • Not yet grasp the concept of probability.
  • Need help taking turns.
  • Need the game simplified.
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Pre-K Children may:

  • Be able to increase their knowledge of probability by adding another variable into the game.

Home child care providers may:

  • Adapt the game to a one player game.  Have just one child count the number of times the coin landed on heads.  As they begin to understand the concept of
    probability, add tails as an counting option as well.

 

Home child care providers may:

  • Play with 2 coins.  Again, the player calls either heads or tails.  Both coins need to be the side the player callsin order for the player to receive a point.  If both coins land of the opposite sides then the other player gets a point and if the two coins land on head and tails, no one gets a point.

 

   
Books Books
 
  • That's a Possibility!: A Book About What Might Happen by Bruce Goldstone (New York: Henry Holt and Co, 2013)
  • Do You Wanna Bet?: Your Chance to Find Out About Probability by Jean Cushman (New York: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007)
  • A Very Improbable Story: A Math Adventure by Edward Finhorn (Boston, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing, 2008)
   
Music and movement Music and Movement
 
  • Many students learn through music. Witness the number of adults who easily sing the ABC song with their own children. Composers are beginning to develop math-specific songs to help students learn math concepts and skills. Whether teachers use a song to introduce or reinforce a concept, or as a regular part of calendar time, students are bound to benefit from the multi-sensory experience.
    http://www.mathwire.com/music/music.html#mdata
   
Outdoor connections Outdoor Connections
 

 

   
Explore links Web Resources
 

 

 


 

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