Only a few days left for your July MathAnagram. Either it's harder than I thought or no one is paying attention!

Probability questions will forever addle the minds of students and adults alike. If all problems could involve selecting one object randomly, life would be good. Unfortunately, selecting 'more than one' is becoming common on standardized tests these days. Taking two or more objects immediately ratchets up the difficulty:

Does order count?

Multiple solution paths

Making a list

Combinations? Permutations? Multiplication Principle? Using "rules" of probability?

In what course do students receive sufficient instruction in this important area? Algebra 1? Algebra 2? Precalculus? A probability/statistics/discrete math class? AP Stat? IMO, the lack of standardization in secondary curriculum can lead to some topics getting short shrift.

I've come to the conclusion that middle schoolers should devote more time to some of this, since 4th graders are generally expected (in most states' standards) to solve the "select one object" type. What do you think? Since most readers enjoy the math challenges and not this kind of curriculum discussion, here are our offerings for today...

A bag contains eight coins: two each of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

Question 1: If two coins are randomly selected, show that the probability that the two coins will total at least 20 cents in value is 1/2.

Question 2: If 4 coins are randomly selected, show that the probability of getting exactly one of each kind of coin is 8/35. (At least two methods please!)

Note: This result implies that the chances of getting at least one matching pair of coins among the 4 coins is greater than 75%!!

Question 3: Invent your own!

Comments:

There are many problems of this type on this blog (see probability, combinatorial math in the index). Further, there are many other excellent blogs and web sites that address these topics and provide wonderful challenges and explanations. Two of the best are Jonathan's over at jd2718 and Isabel over at God Plays Dice.