The Price Really Is Right!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I've spent a fair bit of time discussing the happenings (and future plans) for my course that I am both developing and teaching this semester.  Today, I figured I would discuss our recent activity mostly to serve as another diary type entry for myself next semester.

My school's fall break is this week which means we get Friday off.  Yeah, a one day break isn't overly impressive (but we do get the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off as well which I appreciate).  Anyhow, it's often tough to cover much material in a short week for a distribution class since the students have all of Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to forget.  However, thanks to our local community arts center, I got lucky.

You see, the traveling game show The Price is Right LIVE is coming to our town on Sunday.  When I learned about the show, I instantly arranged for tickets (free for the entire class) and rearranged my course schedule to accommodate the game show.  That meant both Monday and Wednesday were used to discuss Price is Right games and strategies.
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We spent one and a half days discussing the mathematics behind the game of Plinko!  It ended up being a great way to review choice trees (using a small version of the Plinko! board).  It also natural evolved into a way to discuss using a small problem to help us solve a larger version...and it perfectly illustrated the need for a formula or shortcut when trying to analyze the "real" board.  In our case, the short cut is of course Pascal's triangle...which in itself is an excellent lead in to the next segment of the course where we will discuss the Binomial Theorem (and the MLB World Series).

After spending the better part of two classes on Plinko!, I used the remaining class time to give a crash course on some other games that might be played during the live show (I emailed the producers of the program but they wouldn't divulge which games would be played).

We looked at when to spin and when to "hold" during the Showcase Showdown.

We talked about bidding strategies.

We talked about basic strategies for a few of the games...and we ended yesterday's class with a video of what not to do which drew the expected laughs.

Overall, the students seemed quite excited for the opportunity to attend the show.  The math wasn't easy for the Plinko! board but most students seemed to intently study the various problems and explanations.  I had plenty of great questions about it during the lessons which convinced me that the students were truly engaging the material.  I believe the allure of winning a car (supposedly they play a game where someone could win a car even in the traveling show) was a great motivator!

Now that the lessons are over, I can only sit back and hope at least one of my students get the opportunity to go the stage.  It'd be a lot of fun to say that students can take my class and possibly win a vacation to Bermuda or something!


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