I don’t know why, but during break I found myself playing Monopoly online. Then, somehow I stumbled onto this site:

How to Win at Monopoly^{®} – a Surefire Strategy

Since grading my exams, I’ve been thinking of ways to detach my students from their calculators. Their reaction to any kind of arithmetic is to jump, dive, kick and scream for their calculator. I thought “I’d just like them to play Monopoly for a couple hours and not use their calculators to compute the change.” Now I have another reason:

The table shows how many opponent rolls it takes, statistically, for a player to break even on their investment in a property. If you go to the site and read the comments, you’ll see many people provide anecdotal confirmation of what the statistics say. I’m starting to think that this could be a fun way to introduce probability – especially if I can join in on the fun, lay the smackdown, and say “why am I so good at Monopoly?”

The table says that your fastest way to return investment is to throw three houses on the St. James/Tennessee/New York group. This seems to be the kind of thing that students should be able to easily understand why its true:

- It is not the most expensive color group
- It is not the cheapest color group
- It is a second color group (on a board side, meaning it earns higher rents for the same improvement costs)
*It is 6-9 spaces from Jail*.

The last point is the one I can see easily transitioning into probability from. What is the most often roll of two dice? Why is that important in Monopoly? The questions here are endless.

Luckily, I have plenty of versions of Monopoly sitting in a closet in my childhood bedroom. Now I just have to find a way to carve out a day to play Monopoly…

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Thanks for sharing this. I agree that students need to have more real life context to appreciate the value of understanding data and probability.