This JAVA applet is designed to give students practice in calculating basic probabilities using the binomial distribution. The applet gives students short problem descriptions that require a binomial probability to solve. The user is then prompted to follow a step by step process to find the probability. Users must answer a step correctly before the applet will allow them to move on to the next step.
The page also gives further exercises that allow the user to think about binomial distributions more deeply and gives a link to a more detailed information about the binomial distribution.
1. Help students read and correctly interpret binomial probability problems. 2. Help students correctly complete binomial probability calculations.
Target Student Population:
Students in an introductory statistics course.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Basic ideas of probability, the binomial distribution, and notation for combinations.
Type of Material:
Online interactive JAVA Applet
Drill and practice for students who need help with reading binomial probability problems correctly or the mechanics of binomial probability calculations. It can also serve as a method for emphasis of clear thinking about problem solving.
JAVA enabled web browser
Evaluation and Observation
The applet is very well thought out with built-in feedback provided for common errors. For instance if the user tries to find the probability of exactly three rather than three or less the applet will give them a corrective hint. The applet also has a hint button if the user is unsure how to begin. This helps students see their errors and correct them. A variety of real contexts are used for the problems.
A major concern with this applet is that it does not encourage conceptual understanding of the binomial distribution. The applet encourages the student to effectively follow step by step methods for calculating binomial probabilities; however, it does not attempt to provide students with any understanding of the importance of the binomial distribution. The applet has follow up questions that could be a place for the author to encourage the students to think more deeply but instead the questions deal only with more mundane probability rules. This applet did not make use of graphics to help make the connection between the calculations and the binomial distribution. The notation used in this applet may not exactly match what is used in most introductory texts.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
This applet will patiently reinforce the correct procedure for identifying the important parameters in binomial probability problems. It can be used to give students a variety of self-study drill problems to help them learn procedural solving of the problems.
Most students should be able to use this item on their own but there are some pitfalls teachers should be aware of. The applet may freeze in some situations and may lead students to become frustrated. The applet does not have a feedback mechanism that would allow students to provide evidence they have used it. Therefore it is best used as a self study tool rather than an assigned part of the course that must be completed and turned in.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
Consistent presentation of problems. Easy to work through.
The use of this applet may be difficult due to some technical issues. As mentioned above it does freeze occasionally. The applet does not make clear the number of decimal places required for answers which may lead to some student confusion. A similar problem is that students may be asked to sum a series of probabilities they have calculated and the correct answer may be rounded so that in essence the correct answer is not the sum of the component parts. Also, the reviewers were unable to use the applet on a Macintosh browser (I.E. or Safari).