Fairground Games

Make a great probability game and become Kings of the Fairground

Have you ever lost money on a fairground game? Have you ever wondered how the games are designed? You always see some one win, they look like fun to play, and you always think you have a chance, but somehow the game always wins! In this activity, you are going to design and test some fairground games to see if you can come up with a good one. You will have to decide if it will be based on experimental or theoretical probability and you will have to calculate, test and adjust your games to get them just right. If at all possible, you should arrange another class to come and visit your 'Fairground' and put your games to the test. The game that best meets the design brief will be the game that makes the most money! This is a whole unit of lessons based on this theme that encourages you to think about all of the elements.


Teachers might want to consult these Fairground Games - Teacher Notes

Before you start designing games, it is a good idea to be clear about all of the issues and ideas you need to understand to make a really good game. Try the questions and activities on the two activity sheets below

  Experimental Probability Games activity sheet.

  Theoretical Fairground Games ​Activity sheet 

The following documents include all of the other information you will need and might want to print

 Design Brief and Rules 

 Data collection sheet This sheet is for collecting data during tests and adjustments of the game. 

 The big event This sheet is for data collection sheet for using when a class visits.    

Alternatively, you might use the  Data collection spreadsheet so you can watch the experimental probability changing, the more trials you do.

See also the section below on 'Example Games' and the Teachers Notes page for some important points to consider when using this activity.

The Design Brief

In your teams you must make a game that can be played by another visiting class or each other.

  • The object is to create a game that players are more likely to lose than they are to win, but one that it is still possible to win and one that people will want to play!
  • When a player comes to your stall, what ever it is that they do, after they have had their turn you need to be able to say if they have Won or Lost. This is an essential element. No varying degrees of winning or losing are allowed!
  • The probability of a player wining your game should be around 3/10 – and definitely less than 5/10. This needs to be justified either as an experimental probability that you have got from tests OR as a theoretical probability that you have calculated. (A test may still be advisable in this case to test your calculations)
  • You are trying to end up with more tokens than you started with.
  • If it is too easy then you will be popular, but lose all your money quickly and go bust.
  • If it is too difficult then no one will want to play and you will not win any tokens.

The Rules

Your game MUST abide by the following rules…..

  • Each team and each player will be given a bank of tokens to start with.
  • Whatever the nature of the game – students pay 1 counter to play and they either WIN or LOSE
  • Players will pay 1 token to play your game and IF they LOSE then you keep the counter – IF they WIN you give them their counter back + 1 of yours.
  • No other prizes, costs or rewards are allowed.
  • NO FOOD can be involved at any stage – not with the game and certainly no sweets as prizes. This will ruin the nature of the experiment.

Example Games

The Paper Toss

This is a simple game just to exemplify the idea behind the kind of games required.

This is a simple game – players stand a certain distance from a bin with a piece of screwed up paper. They have to get the paper in the bin.

Win – they get the paper in the bin

Lose – they miss

Variation – students are given three attempts

Win – they get 2 out of three in

Lose – they get 1 or less in

Lucky Dip

This game is based on calculating theoretical probabilities, but is, again, very simple, just to get the main ideas across.

You have a bucket of ping pong balls. 3 of them are orange and 7 are not. Players are blindfolded, the bucket is shaken and then the player chooses one ping pong ball from the bucket.

Win – they choose an orange one

Lose – they choose a white one

Variation – The bucket contains 6 orange balls and 4 other colours. Players are blindfolded and they have to pick two balls from the bucket

Win – they pick two orange balls

Lose – they pick two whites or one of each

More Games

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