Teaching Lesson 4

The most important concept to get across in this unit is how probability can be used to introduce some randomness into computer models.  Often this will be students' first exposure to probability so it is helpful to use the hands-on activities with dice ("Chances are" and "Wiggle walk") and to act out the wiggle walk. 

Review the activities from Lesson 4 as well as the materials below.  Reflect on how you would teach this lesson in your class.  Post your reflection to your portfolio in "Pedagogy->Module 1" under the heading "Lesson 4."

Learning Objectives

The student will:

-   Learn that in complex adaptive systems one type of common interaction is of agents interacting with other agents.  (LO21)

-   Create a simple program with agents interacting with other agents. (LO22)

-   Use the random function to implement probabilistic outcomes / behaviors (LO23)

-   Learn computer science concepts of random numbers (LO24)

-   Understand the concept of collisions (LO25)

-   Learn mathematical concepts or probability and distributions (LO26)

Teaching Summary

Getting started – 5 minutes (Review)

1.     Review of the previous day’s lesson and concepts and connection to today’s lesson.

           Activity #1: Probability with Dice and Data - 20 minutes (Guided Practice)

2.     Chances Are - one die

3.     Wiggle walk - two dice

Activity #2 : Colliding Turtles - 20 minutes  (Discovery / Creative)

4.     New Concepts: Agent-agent interactions

5.     Add a behavior that takes place upon collision

            Wrap-up - 5 minutes  (Reflection)

6.     What could turtles colliding represent in the real world?

7.     How does probability play a role in modeling and simulation?

Assessment questions (suggestions):
  • Which characteristics of complex adaptive systems can you identify in Colliding turtles
  • Give an example of how agents interacting with other agents may be used to represent something in the real world.   
  • How does using probability impact the outcome when running simulations?
  • What variables were used in Colliding Turtles?
  • What is the difference between “right turn random 90” and “right turn random 90 left turn random 90”?

NGSS Scientific and Engineering Practice Standards

Practice 1: Asking questions and defining problems

1A: Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results.

1B: Ask question to identify and/or clarify evidence and/or the premise(s) of an argument.

1E: Ask questions that require sufficient and appropriate empirical evidence to answer.

1F: Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, outdoor environment, and based on observations and scientific principles.

Practice 2: Developing and using models

2C: Use and/or develop a model of simple systems with uncertain and less predictable factors.

2E: Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

Practice 3: Planning and carrying out investigations

3D: Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions.

Practice 4: Analyzing and interpreting data

4A: Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

4B: Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

4E: Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including mean, median, mode, and variability) to analyze and characterize data, using digital tools when feasible.

4F: Consider limitations of data analysis (e.g., measurement error), and/or seek to improve precision and accuracy of data with better technological tools and methods (e.g., multiple trials).

Practice 5: Using mathematics and computational thinking

5B: Use mathematical representations to describe and/or support scientific conclusions and design solutions.

5C: Create algorithms (a series of ordered steps) to solve a problem.

5D: Apply mathematical concepts and/or processes  (e.g., ratio, rate, percent, basic operations, simple algebra) to scientific and engineering questions and problems.

Practice 6: Constructing explanations and designing solutions

6D: Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real-world phenomena, examples, or events.


NGSS Crosscutting Concepts

1. Patterns:

1D: Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

2. Cause and Effect:

2C: Phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.

4. Systems and Systems models

4B: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.


CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards




Develop a simple understanding of algorithms using computer-free exercises.


Data representation


Use visual representation of problem state, structure and data.


Data representation


Describe how mathematical and statistical functions, sets, and logic are used in computation.


Modeling & simulation


Interact with content-specific models and simulations to support learning and research.


Modeling & simulation


Use modeling and simulation to represent and understand natural phenomena.




Implement a problem solution in a programming environment using looping behavior, conditional statements, logic, expressions, variables and functions.


Responsiveness to varied student learning needs:

In Project GUTS, we integrate teaching strategies found to be effective with learners with various backgrounds and characteristics such as economically disadvantaged students (EDS), students from underrepresented groups in STEM (URG) , students with disabilities (DIS), English Language learners (ELL), girls and young women (FEM), students in alternative education (ALT), and gifted and talented students (GAT).  In each lesson we describe the accommodations and differentiation strategies that are integrated in the activities to support a wide range of learners.

Module 1 Lesson 4 Activity #1: Dice and Data (Chances Are and Wiggle Walk)

(URG)  In Dice and Data, we use a class modeling activity that involved student movement and interaction, a strategy that uses a multi-modal experience to increase student engagement.

(DIS) Across both the Chances Are and Wiggle Walk activities, we provide multiple means of action, expression, representation and engagement by introducing a game and a design and build programming activity that build on the same underlying concepts.  These are all principles of Universal Design for Learning.

Module 1 Lesson 4 Activity #2: Colliding Turtles Challenge

(URG)(DIS) We use technology to present information in multiple modes of representations. In the StarLogo Nova modeling and simulation environment students can present information as code blocks, text, visual imagery, and as data in tables and graphs.

(FEM) We recommend careful planning of partners for pair programing in the Colliding Turtle Challenge activity, a practice that encourages participation for the girls in science.