No way Jose


In this unit we develop the language of probability by considering events which are likely or unlikely. We do this using the context of children's stories.

Achievement Objectives
S1-3: Investigate situations that involve elements of chance, acknowledging and anticipating possible outcomes.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Use everyday language to talk about chance.
  • Classify events as certain, possible, or impossible.
Description of Mathematics

This unit is about developing the language of probability. The words that are introduced and explored in this unit are always, perhaps, no way Jose, certain, possible, impossible, will, might, won’t, will, maybe, never, yes, maybe, no. These are informal, everyday words that denote chance or probability. By using these words, that have some familiarity for the students, they should start to get a better idea of the overall concept of probability. As students progress through the primary years they will gradually learn to assign fractions or decimals to given probabilities using both a theoretical and experimental approach.

Opportunities for Adaptation and Differentiation

The learning opportunities in this unit can be differentiated by providing or removing support to students and by varying the task requirements. Ways to support students include:

  • Using their own experiences of what they see as they walk or travel to school rather than the perspectives of a character in a story. Ask the students to draw or tell you about something that they “will see”, “won’t see” and “might see” on the way to school.
  • Reading the selected story at the start of each of the “exploring” sessions rather than assuming that the students already know the story and can use the story packet independently.

The contexts for this unit can be adapted to suit the interests and experiences of your students. For example:

  • Begin the unit by using your students’ own experiences as they walk or travel from home to school in the morning.
  • Create story packets for stories that are popular with students in your class, for example, “Going on a bear/moa hunt”.
Required Resource Materials

Getting Started

Today we follow Red Riding Hood on her journey to Grandma’s house and look at the characters she is likely to meet.

  1. Read or tell the story of Red Riding Hood.
    Discuss with the students the setting of Red Riding Hood’s journey. Encourage the students to share their ideas about the objects that could be found in the forest.
  2. Show a picture of a tree to the class. Ask: Do you think Red Riding Hood will see a tree in the forest?
    Peg the picture of the tree beneath the word card will.
  3. Show a picture of an octopus to the class. Ask: Do you think that Red Riding Hood will see an octopus in the forest?
    Display the picture beneath the word card won’t.
  4. Show a picture of a hedgehog to the class. Ask: Do you think that Red Riding Hood will see a hedgehog in the forest?
    Display the picture beneath the word card might.
  5. Show the students the rest of the pictures in the Red Riding Hood story pack. Let the students take turns placing the picture under a word card. Remember to ask the students to justify their decision.


Over the next 2 to 3 days the students can look at the journeys of other fairytale characters and make decisions about who or what they might meet.

  1. In pairs let the students select one of the prepared story packets. (A story packet contains 3 word cards and pictures of objects for the students to classify. It also includes 3 blank cards for the students to draw their own pictures.)
    Remind the students to peg the pictures beneath the word cards.
  2. As the students classify the cards, ask questions that encourage the students to explain their thinking.
    Tell me why you have put that there?
    Why do you think that …….. is impossible?
    Could you have put it with one of the other words? Why/Why not?
  3. Remind the students that between them they are to draw 3 pictures – one object for each word card in their story packet.
  4. At the end of each day give the pairs an opportunity to display and discuss their word strings.
  5. As the students share their strings encourage the students to use the language of probability.


  1. We begin today’s session by getting the students to brainstorm a list of their favourite stories.
  2. In pairs, get the students to select a story for which they can make a story pack. Discuss what the contents of a story pack are (pictures and 3 word cards).
  3. Allow the pairs time to talk about the people or things that the main character will, might or won’t see.
  4. Share ideas to ensure that the students understand what they are doing.
  5. Let the students decide on the 3 probability words that they are going to include in their story pack. These words can either be provided on cards or written on the board for the students to copy.
  6. As the students make their story packs, ask questions that focus on their use of probability words and their decisions about the likelihood of events.
  7. Swap packs.
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Level One