Factors affecting student decision-making in a game of chance: Another misconception in probability?

Year: 1994

Author: Peard, Robert

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper presents the results of a research study which follows earlier research into misconceptions in probabilistic reasoning. The author has earlier reported results of an informal observation of student behaviour in a card game in which students demonstrated a preference to take the part of a player over the part of the dealer even when the odds were clearly in favour of the dealer. The present research set out to determine the reasons behind the students' decisions. Research questions posed were: Do the students fail to recognise that the odds favour the dealer? Is the duration of the game adequate for the relative frequencies to approximate the theoretical probabilities? Do the students demonstrate any type of misconception in their decision-making?

The game was played by two classes of Grade 9 students over an 80- minute period. During the play and at the end of the period, the students answered a questionnaire in which they gave reasons for their decisions. It was found that most students recognised that the odds favoured the dealer. The responses of those who recognised this but who nevertheless preferred to take the part of the player were examined to determine the basis of their decision. This examination identified a misconception in probabilistic reasoning that implied a misconception of the concept of mathematical expectation. The nature of this misconception is examined in light of the results of earlier research into misconceptions in probabilistic reasoning by secondary school students reported by the author.