Let’s Play Plinko! At the Siemens STEM Academy

Today, it’s my turn to present at the Siemens STEM Academy in Silver Spring, after an exciting adventure in Washington where the fellows spent the day exploring the White House and the National Museum of Natural History, with a few of us escaping to the Air and Space Museum.

Air and Space

For today’s presentation, I took an old favorite from probability class, Plinko, and shared methods for using tech resources to share data and facilitate discussions.

To start, here is a video of Plinko drops I created, using clips from multiple You-Tube clips of Plinko games.

Before the simulation, I ask students to contribute their thoughts about the Plinko game, and the chances of winning the $10,000.  In the past, hand-raising or dry-erase boards were used, but the site Poll Everywhere provides a chance for feedback via cell phone text or website:

Poll 1

poll 2

I have walked students through Plinko simulations in my probability classes for over 10 years.  Students use flipped coins to travel down the pegged path, using a heads to move right and tails to move left. The slot the Plinko chip lands in is then recorded, and the experiment repeated.  Lately, I have encouraged participants to explore random.org, which provide random number draws, flipped coins, and cards drawn from decks.

Pairs and small groups generate data on Plinko success, which we would like to compile into one large class set.  In my earlier years, students kept track of their data, then contributed to the class results on my overhead projector. Later, the TI Navigator system was used to transmit results through graphing calculators. In today’s presentation, a Goggle form was shared for participants to submit results, then a summary table created.


For submitting results, fellows were challenged to make a 30-second video which summarized their findings. Video were then submitted to my YouTube channel, using cell phones.  Look under your channel settings to find your submission address.  Here, Alysha and Brandon share their discoveries:

Finally, a photopeach slide show demonstrates how to get your class focused the next day, by summarizing an earlier day’s events through a photo slide-show quiz.

Using technology efficiently to keep students engaged, share data, and encourage innovation have been strong themes this week.  It’s never a bad time to examine lessons we have used for years and evaluate new technologies to improve their delivery.

10 responses to “Let’s Play Plinko! At the Siemens STEM Academy

  1. Bob, Great post and even greater opportunity being a part of the institute! I have been following the # to see what’s happening.

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  8. Jennifer L Preissel

    Do you have materials you could share on this?

  9. Do you have materials you could share from this lesson?

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