Dear Family, your Operation Maths guide to Chance

Dear Family, your Operation Maths guide to Chance

Dear Family, listed below are some practical suggestions as to how you might support your children’s understanding of the maths topic of Chance (for 3rd-6th classes only). Also below, are a series of links to digital resources that will help both the children, and you, learn more about Chance.

Junior Infants to Second Class
You can also find class specific tips in the Operation Maths Dear Family letters for third to sixth class.

Practical Suggestions for all Children

  • Chance is one of the most interesting, and fun, areas of primary maths, since it is mostly about probability, i.e. identifying the possible outcome(s) of random events. With your children, talk about ‘chance’ whenever you have the chance (excuse the pun!):
    • What is the chance that you’ll go to school today?
    • What is the chance that you’ll get homework today?
    • What is the chance that you’ll get to watch TV or get to play computer games?
    • What is the chance that it will be warm tomorrow, that it will rain, that it will snow?
    • What factors affect the likelihood of these events occurring? For example, the day that it is, the time of year, whether the child has done their chores etc.
  • In school, we use language such as impossible, (highly) unlikely, may or may not, possible, (highly) likely, certain, etc., to describe the likelihood of events occurring. Encourage your children to use these words as accurately as possible, especially the words impossible and certain. For example:
    • On a sunny day, what is the chance of rain? Unlikely or highly unlikely you could say, but it wouldn’t be correct to say impossible, because anything is possible!
    • On a day when you have organised to do something e.g. go shopping, what is the chance of it happening? Likely or highly likely, because it is already organised, but it is not certain, because again anything could happen to disrupt the well-made plans, like the car mightn’t start.
    • If I toss a 6-sided dice once, what is the chance of getting a 7? Now that’s impossible! What is the chance of getting a number from 1 to 6? That is certain!
  • Children in 5th and 6th classes are also encouraged to use more mathematical ways, including using fractions, decimals and percentages, to express probability e.g. 100% certain, a 1 in 4 chance, 50/50, etc. This type of language could also be included in your discussions at home.
  • So, no matter how accurate the mathematical prediction, the actual outcome(s) is not certain (except in the unlikely case where there is only one possible outcome); that is the element of chance! For example, when I toss a six-sided dice, each number has a equal chance of coming up. Therefore, if I do this repeatedly for a number of times, I could expect to see equal occurrences of each number. Yet that might not happen in reality! But, it is most often the case, that if you repeat this type of investigation enough times, the actual results WILL end up being very close to the predicted outcomes. In other words, the more you do something, the more likely it will happen as predicted. Some of the activities in the Operation Maths books are specifically designed to explore this. So try them and see!
  • Many games are designed around random outcomes so play board games, card games, dice games, any type of game where you can’t know from the outset who will definitely be the winner! Ask the children before you play, and as you play, who do they think will win and why; perhaps somebody in the family is a dab hand at rolling sixes, is a card shark or after a number of turns is already way ahead of everybody else. At the end of the game did that person win? Perhaps, on this occasion, a person was dealt “bad” cards, or the dice didn’t fall as hoped for, or another player caught up and overtook the early leader. Or maybe not! Experiences like this, help the children appreciate how lots of different factors can influence and affect an outcome, and that they can predict winners or outcomes based on the best information that they have at the time, but that the predicted outcome may or may not materialise.
  • Study the weather! Look at the sky and discuss the chances of rain, sun, snow, lightning etc. Look up Met Éireann’s website to find out the weather forecast for your area and then, afterwards, discuss whether the predicted weather arrived. Again, while meteorology, the study of weather, is a science in itself, it is still involves using the best scientific information available at the time to predict the weather, which, in the end, may or may not happen.
  • Sport provides us with an abundance of opportunities to discuss chance:
    • What are the chances of a particular team or individual winning a game, match, fight, competition or race?
    • Before the event could you predict an outcome?
    • What information about the competitors or teams might be useful to influence this predication?
  • Draw the children’s attention to any other situation where chance plays a role e.g. the chances of winning a raffle or the lottery.

Digital Resources for Third to Sixth Classes

Math is FunProbability: Background information on probability and chance from Maths is Fun


Random Dice!Interactive online chance tools: No dice at home? Don’t want to have to make up a spinner? There are lots of interactive tools and random chance games here.


Math Antics - Basic Probability - YouTubeBasic Probability: A video from Math Antics, that introduces the concept of chance, language of chance and the probability line.

Image result for Bear: Explore combinations using this virtual tool; how many different outfits can Bobbi Bear wear on holiday

Impossible? Unlikely? Get seriously foul, gross drinks in The Vile ...

The Vile Vendor Probability Game Use your understanding of chance to work out the likelihood of getting these vile drinks!

The slushy sludger: questionsThe Slushy Sludger Use your knowledge of probability to predict what kind of slushy you are likely to get from the choices on offer.

Measurement curiosities: Online games to practice probability

Probability Pond Selection of probability games based round a pond theme. 


Climber Probability Math Game for Kids | Toy TheaterClimber Probability Game: Help the climber reach the top by clicking on the colour that you think will win the spin.


Interactive Probability Math Game - Pull Objects From The BagProbability activities: There are a lot of activities here that range from simpler to more complex. Start with activity 1 and then go through them in order, until the content gets too difficult.

Adjustable SpinnerAdjustable online spinner: use this to make up your own spinner , predict the outcome and and then investigate the actual outcomes.


View details - ScootleSpinners Chance and Data Assessment Build spinners to show how well you understand chance and probability. Your answers will be saved to a report which you can review at the end.

PROBABILITY MODEL MATH ACTIVITY! - YouTubeUsing area models: For fifth and sixth class, Mashup Math has this excellent video which demonstrate how area models can be used to identify all possible outcomes.

Tree Diagrams Explained! - YouTubeUsing Tree Diagrams: Another excellent video from Mashup Math, this one demonstrates how tree diagrams can be used to identify all possible combinations.

Check out this Mathswire page for more games that focus on probability.

IXL | Maths and English Practice

Probability: a selection of games from You can do a number of free quizzes each day without having a subscription.


Probability: Some more online practice games