Statistics and Mysticism Makes the Perfect Learning Tool

By Pauline Moc, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing
C3 Interns
CHASS Undergraduate Interns (back to front):
Hussein Sabbagh, Katrina Ortiz, and Brian Jew

What is the probability that a college graduate would find their perfect match living in the city and state of their choice? Would he/she take the intellectual route and calculate the probability with formulas, or would he/she trust a fortune teller's ability to see into the future? Instead, why not play a game that combines statistics and mysticism to give accurate results based on the United States Census?

The Statistical Games summer research project, funded by the Reed Institute at Claremont McKenna College and the Statistical Consulting Collaboratory at UC Riverside, gave three CHASS undergraduate interns the opportunity to participate in this summer project: Brian Jew, a Business Administration major, composed the script and arranged the steps in the game; Katrina Ortiz, an Art major, brought the team’s vision and Madame Zeroni to life; and Hussein Sabbagh, a Computer Science major, wove the team’s ideas together with software to construct the game. They were joined by two UCR graduate students in Statistics – Javier Suarez and Rui Xiao – and Michelle Breaux, who received her M.S. in Mathematics form Claremont McKenna College. The team was mentored by Associate Professor of Statistics Daniel Jeske and CHASS’ Chief Technology Officer James Lin.

Their game, What are the Chances?, is mostly targeted toward high school students; their main goal to teach high school students that a career in statistics can be enjoyable. What are the Chances? covers some of the basic concepts introduced in statistics: conditional probability, joint probability, and independence.

What are the Chances? presents players with a mock scenario:

“… You stumble upon a local newspaper advertising that the county fair is in town. The advertisement boasts about Madame Zeroni, the greatest fortune teller of all time, who can not only foresee a person’s future but can also give advice that will bring the recipient great fortunes in the future.

Deciding that you have nothing to lose, you head over to the county fair to see Madame Zeroni...”

Players step through a scarlet curtain, enter Madame Zeroni's lair, and give her the age and gender of their ideal partner. Players then select the state and city where they wish to find their partner, and distinguishing attributes they wish their ideal partner to possess. Martial status, income, and education are some of the attributes listed, as well as a few shady qualities such as prison record and/or drug use.

Madame Zeroni explains how she calculates the probability of finding a match containing the selected attributes in the city of the player's choice. Afterward, she reveals the probability of players finding their matches in selected cities. Usually, when players pick more attributes they require, the less likely they will find a match.

Like its predecessors, Hyper Fishing and Streaky Baseball,What are the Chances? introduces players to basic concepts in statistics using an entertaining, but educational, game, and hopes to make statistics more enjoyable for high school students.


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