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## What's in a Pack of M&M's? - Math+Science+Technology

This lesson combines math, science, and technology. Students will investigate probablity and sampling.

Background

Sampling is a techniques that we use to predict outcomes for a large group or population. Pollsters use this technique during elections. Television uses it to determine ratings. Companies use it to determine the best packaging combinations. During this lesson, students will predict anticipated outcomes by looking at packages of M & M's, and analyizing their makeup.

Activity
Discussion

Begin with a discussion on how television networks determine their ratings. Do they call everyone at home? Do they call some people? Have they ever been called to be asked what they watch on TV?

Discuss how pollsters determine who is ahead in a campaign. How do we know before a vote is taken if George W. Bush or Al Gore is ahead in a particular state or in the entire country. Do pollsters contact everyone in that area, or just a few? Is it random, or ordered? Lead students to understand that we "sample" a portion of the population about their habits or opinions to get scientific data. The larger the sampling, the more accurate the data.

Step 1 - Predicting
Show the class a small package of M&M's. Have students identify what colors are included in the package. In groups of 4, have them predict the number of M&M's by color in each package. Record these predictions.

Step 2 - Collecting data/Sampling
Pass out 4 packs of M&M's/group. Students should count out each pack, ONE AT A TIME, recording the total number of M&M's/color in each pack. Use the following chart if computers are not available. If they are, have students create this spreadsheet in any spreadsheet program and fill it in.

Color Bag 1 Bag 2 Bag 3 Bag 4
Orange
Tan
Brown
Red
Yellow
Green
Blue

Step 3 - Interpreting Data
Students should calculate the average and total number of colors/pack. Use the spreadsheet calculate tools to do this easily. Convert the data to a graph.

Based on your findings, what can you say about the colors in a bag of M&M's?

Color Average Total % of Total
Orange
Tan
Brown
Red
Yellow
Green
Blue

Lead the class through discussions on how sampling can be used in other ways, ie: Television viewing, election data... You can extend this exercise by having students poll others on the upcoming elections, or by performing an analysis of other products on the market.

Students can vist the M&M website listed below to find out more. They can check their ratios compared to the company's as well.
 Last updated  2008/09/28 09:48:22 PDT