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Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications
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Spinner, Track Meet, and Probability
Lingguo Bu is a PhD student in the Department of Middle and Secondary Education at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL. He is interested in the use of technology in supporting students' mathematical investigation in the middle and secondary grades. Maria L. Fernández is an Associate Professor of Mathematics Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Florida International University in Miami, FL. Her research interests are primarily in the areas of the professional development of teachers of mathematics and using technology for teaching and learning mathematics.
Spinners can be used successfully for students to explore and make connections between the spinner design and the probability of an event. However, when integrated with other activities, spinners may complicate a problem situation, leading to unexpected results. In this article, we share one such experience that occurred as part of a middle grades teacher professional development project. Working with two fourth-grade teachers and their students during a lesson study involving a track meet game, we came to understand the complexities of the probability-based situation. We unveil various aspects of a problem arising from the track meet game as we review student-generated data, conduct computer simulations, seek an analytical solution to the problem, and make connections to classic problems in probability. Interactive components in the article allow for immediate computer simulation and formula evaluation.