The closest Target is about 2 hours away. For some background - I also grew up in a similar area - no Target. When I lived in DC, I was first introduced to Target's wonderfulness (to be clear - DC Target is a little less wonderful than average Target wonderfulness).

Reminiscing aside, I traveled to said nearest Target yesterday. And - let's be clear - the most awesome part of the whole store is obviously the $1 section as you come in the door. I found about 5,280 pieces of wonderful $1 items that I thought - at the time - were absolutely essential to purchase. After some deep breathing and reasoning with myself a little, I finally purchased these...

"What is that?" you ask. I'm so glad you did. It's a dozen bags of small, plastic multicolored woodland animals.

I opened one bag. Here is the assortment of colors/creatures I received:

There are 6 creatures (all very cute) in three different colors.

There are little foxes and deer.

Also joining the party - squirrels and rabbits.

I hear you. This is a math blog. Tell me about the math. Okay - if you insist, but isn't the fox cuteeee?

Here are my thoughts: this little bag is a probability play ground.

Kids usually have so much trouble processing the general probability rules, and these little guys can work like manipulatives for said topics.

Some examples:

Put all woodland creatures in bag. If you mix the bag up well and select one animal, what is the probability that you pick a red animal or a fox? (Addition Rule for Nondisjoint Events)

Put all woodland creatures in bag. Manipulate assortments so bags only have species of one color. For instance - green foxes, red deer, purple squirrels, and red rabbits (I forget other two animals right now). Question: If you mix the bag up well and select one animal, what is the probability that you select a purple animal or a fox? (Addition Rule for Disjoint Events)

Put all woodland creatures in a bag. If you mix the bag up well, what is the probability you select a fox, return the fox to the bag, and select a rabbit? (Multiplication Rule for Independent Events)

Put all the woodland creates in a bag. If you mix the bag up well, what is the probability you select a fox, keep it, and then draw a rabbit? (Multiplication Rule for Dependent Events)

Are color and species independent? (Independence Rule)

Given that a green fox has been drawn and not replaced, what is the probability you draw a red squirrel? (Conditional Probability)

SO MANY possibilities! SO MUCH fun.

The main part, though - is that, with these manipulatives, kids can actually predict/see/count the answers, which really, really helps the formulas and calculations make sense.

Now, quit reading this, and go to Target.

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