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Probability has recently made its way into many textbook series and standards documents (NCTM, 2000; NGA, 2010). When students engage in probability problem solving many unexpected situations can arise due to the counterintuitive nature of probability concepts. These situations can be difficult for students and challenging for teachers to analyse during teaching. Recently, as facilitators of a Mathematics Science Partnership grant workshop on probability, we had the opportunity to engage middle school teachers in professional development workshops as well as in their classrooms. In this article, we discuss a rich probability task used with these teachers along with two scenarios that represent challenging aspects of probability for students, and challenging teaching. In these two scenarios, we explain the underlying probabilistic concepts that proved difficult for students. For each probability challenge, we discuss how the process of analysing student thinking can inform teaching strategies that may guide student conceptual development.

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This document was originally published by the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Mathematics Teaching. Copyright restrictions may apply.