Sometimes math problems cannot be solved with complete certainty. When these issues arise, we turn to probability to yield the most accurate answer possible. In other words, we try to find how likely it is for something to happen.

One of the easiest ways of understanding probability is by flipping a coin. A coin has two possible outcomes: heads or tails. Thus, the probability of the coin landing on heads is ½ and the probability of landing on tails is also ½. As you can see, fractions are a great way of expressing probability. The numerator of this fraction is the number of ways an event can occur. In this case, there is one side that is heads and one side that is tails, making our numerator 1. The denominator is the total number of possible outcomes, which is 2. Of course, this probability can also be expressed as a decimal. Using simple division, we find that these probabilities are equal to 0.5.

Let’s move on to a slightly more complex example of finding the probability, a 6-sided die. When rolling a die, the outcome can be any of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. When calculating the probability of finding one of those numbers (we will use 2), think of this problem as a fraction. For the numerator, how many times is it possible for the die to land on 2? Since only one side has 2 on it, our numerator is 1. Next, what is the total number of possible outcomes when rolling a die? There are 6 possible outcomes. Thus, the chance of rolling a 2 is 1/6. To put this answer in decimal form, we get 0.167.

Perhaps your child wants a more challenging probability question. Using the 6-sided die again, what is the probability of rolling an even number? First, we find that there are 3 even numbers (2, 4, and 6), which becomes our numerator. As we saw in the previous example, there are 6 total outcomes, making our denominator 6. Therefore, the chance of landing on an even number is 3/6 or 0.5.

Here is one more fun example to test your child’s understanding of probability:

Dean bought 13 doughnuts from the bakery. Four are glazed, 3 are powdered, 2 are frosted, and 4 are jelly-filled. If Dean were to pick a doughnut randomly, what is the probability that he picks a powdered doughnut?

This problem has more possible outcomes but the concept remains the same. First, we identify the likelihood of picking a powdered doughnut. The problem said that Dean bought 3 powdered doughnuts. Thus, the numerator of our fraction is 3. Next, what is the total number of outcomes (or how many doughnuts are there total)? The problem indicated that Dean bought 13 doughnuts, so our denominator is 13. Knowing these values, we find that the likelihood of picking a powdered doughnut is 3/13 or 0.231 in decimal form.

Finding the probability presents children with fun math problems that can often be applied to real life situations. This makes teaching (and learning) probability very easy since children are able to see how these problems relate to their lives. Building upon a solid understanding of probability, be creative in making complex problems for your kids to solve as you help them master this math concept.

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