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Exploring Probability Through Yahtzee Extensions. Chris Bolognese Upper Arlington High School cbolognese@uaschools.org. Goals of the Talk. Motivation with Supportive Research Data Collection & Analysis via Nspires Java Simulation Showcase Sample Student Work Reflection. Motivation.

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Exploring Probability Through Yahtzee Extensions

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Exploring probability through yahtzee extensions

Exploring Probability Through Yahtzee Extensions

Chris Bolognese

Upper Arlington High School


Goals of the talk

Goals of the Talk

  • Motivation with Supportive Research

  • Data Collection & Analysis via Nspires

  • Java Simulation

  • Showcase Sample Student Work

  • Reflection



  • Q.U.A.N.T. [Quantifying Uncertainty and Analyzing Numerical Trends] Summer Workshop, 2010

    Goal was to create cognitively-demanding tasks related to probability and statistics.



  • Implementing Standards-Based Mathematics Instruction (Stein, et. al, 2009) outlines a Task Analysis Guide to evaluate the demand of a task.

  • GAISE Report (Franklin, et. al, 2007) outlines levels of probabilistic and statistical reasoning





  • Honors Precalculus class consisting mainly of juniors.

  • Previously exposed to basic probability and counting techniques.

  • Wanted a rich problem that had no clear answer yet was accessible due to real life experiences.

The solution

The Solution

Standard yahtzee

Standard Yahtzee

Roll five dice to get different combinations. The dice can be rolled up to three times in a turn, reserving dice as needed. The goal is to make one of thirteen different combinations (such as three-of-a-kind, or a large straight). The roll worth the most points is a Yahtzee (all five dice have the same value).

Some dicey questions

Some Dicey Questions

  • What’s the probability that we get Yahtzee

    on the very first roll?

There are 65 possible rolls, with only 6 outcomes as Yahtzees, one for each of the six face values. Thus, the probability of a Yahtzee is 6/65 ≈ 0.077%

Some dicey questions1

Some Dicey Questions

  • What is the probability a Yahtzee is rolled within three rolls?

This is much harder as it requires a transition matrix. One can show that the probability is roughly 4.6029%.

Essential question

Essential Question

In Yahtzee, we have to stop rolling after at

most three rolls… But that’s no fun!

What if we are determined to get a Yahtzee

and continue to roll. What is the expected

number of rolls to obtain a Yahtzee?

Data collection

Data Collection

With a partner, experimentally determine the

number of rolls to get at least one Yahtzee,

reserving matching dice as needed. Then

share your data.

Java simulation

Java Simulation

While we could continually roll to collect

data, let’s use technology to simulate this


How does this simulation compare to our

experimental data?

Data collection1

Data Collection

This graph (DataGenetics, 2012) shows the

chance of getting Yahtzee in n-rolls.

Sample student work

Sample Student Work

Data Representations

Sample student work1

Sample Student Work

Distribution Characteristics

Sample student work2

Sample Student Work


Sample student work3

Sample Student Work

Transition Matrix

Sample student work4

Sample Student Work

Tree Diagram

Sample student work5

Sample Student Work

Probability of Yahtzee in at most 2 Rolls

Sample student work6

Sample Student Work

Other possible extensions

Other Possible Extensions

  • How does the expected number of rolls to get a Yahtzee depend of the number of dice?

  • What are the probabilities of other types

  • of combinations in Yahtzee?

  • Pick another probabilistic board game

  • and use probability theory/

  • combinatorics to analyze the game.



  • The Common Core Mathematical Practices urges students to:1. Make sense of problems2. Reason abstractly3. Construct & critique arguments4. Model with mathematics5. Use tools appropriately6. Attend to precision

    7./8. Look for patterns and structure



  • When designing a cognitively-demanding task, build in connections, open-ended problems, mathematical modeling, and multiple approaches.

  • I highly encourage you to use, modify, or create your own task involving probability that engages students.

    Thanks for attending!

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