TPIR 05: Safe Crackers

I have mentioned before that I am a huge fan of The Price Is Right. I wasn't always a huge fan of the game Safe Crackers though. I can remember watching TPIR as a little kid and being scared when Bob would walk towards the big doors at the back of the set. Frequently when this happened the doors would open to reveal Safe Crackers (and the terrifying?!) Pink Panther Theme.

I am, thankfully, no longer afraid of Safe Crackers, or Henry Mancini, but Safe Crackers remains a great pricing game to analyze. Since I like to introduce problems before math formulas I would definitely use this before I taught students about permutations. The kids usually have no trouble figuring out that the lock has 6 possible permutations and that only 4 of them are really viable. Occasionally a couple of students do even better. Here is what I share with the class.


Here is a link to the You Tube clip

The Price Is Right is the longest running game show on American TV, part of its lasting appeal is due to its wide variety of pricing games. Many of these games can be analyzed with probability theory. Take a look at Safe Crackers. What is the probability of a contestant winning this game? What about a Safe Crackers aficionado?

When we do our math homework on Google Docs (to prepare for discussion the next day) students write each notes back and forth on the document (and I chime in as well). Here are some notes they wrote about this problem:


TPIR 04: Freeze Frame

I love to use pricing games from The Price Is Right to teach my students probability. Freeze Frame, although it only involves basic probability, works well for this. Students are generally not exactly sure how many possibilities there are, and have to physically count them or make a list. Usually when we are discussing Freeze Frame as a class I talk about how difficult the counting of options in probability problems can frequently become. 

In prior posts I have mentioned how I usually flip these videos and have students watch them for homework on YouTube and discuss them on a Google Doc. For Freeze Frame I integrated it into a lesson and had students work out their solution in pairs on whiteboards. Everyone also made a «guess» as to the right answer which we finished watching after we talked about the problem.

Something else we always discuss with these Price Is Right problems is what the savvy contestant would do (frequently vs. what the average bear would do.) I mean sure, $1129 is one of the possibilities for the trip to Hawaii, but obviously the trip would cost much much more than that. If I have looked up the stats before hand it is also interesting to compare our best savvy contestant's probability to the actual probability of winning for contestants on the show.

Click through to watch a clip of Freeze Frame.

Click through to watch a clip of Freeze Frame.

The Price Is Right has male and female models now, and amusingly for my class the model in this clip had his shirt off. The Price Is Right Web site usually has about 5 different playings of each pricing game to watch, so if you like you can find a different playing of the game, but it is down as I write this.


It's time for another fabulous pricing game from The Price Is Right. Watch this clip of Freeze Frame (stop the tape before the contestant chooses an answer, about 1:35) and answer these questions:
(a) What is the probability of winning Freeze Frame if you just close your eyes and pull the lever whenever?
(b) Being a savvy contestant you would, of course, not do this, other than deferring to the audience, how would you increase your chances of winning Freeze Frame. What do you estimate your probability of winning to be?
(c) What do you guess the answer is? Finish watching the clip to see if you were right!

TPIR 03: Gas Money

Gas Money, which debuted in season 37, is one of the newer Pricing Games on The Price Is Right so you may not have ever seen it before. Although the probability of winning is basic, it is still an interesting game to watch because the contestant can walk away with the money if they choose to. The probability of winning Gas Money, is virtually the same as for Danger Price, the game I talked about last week. The thing is, when I used this game in class my students were all confused. They seemed to think that for some reason the probability of winning increased when cards were revealed. Like it was some version of the Monty Hall problem, a problem we had yet to discuss. The game is also interesting because the theoretical probability of winning is higher than the experimental, a fact I vaguely allude to in the questions but can be teased out more in class.

Click through to watch some clips.

Click through to watch some clips.

Gas Money is one of the newer games from The Price is Right. Watch a clip of Gas Money and then use what you know about probability to answer these questions.
(a) What is the probability of winning Gas Money if the contestant plays blindly (i.e. just guessing)?
(b) From season 37 through season 40 on The Price Is Right, Gas Money was won only 6 times and was lost 42 times. Explain why is this curious? What might be the explanation for this?

TPIR 02: Danger Price

Danger Price is another Pricing Game from The Price Is Right I have students analyze to learn about Probability. This one, like Flip Flop just requires students know the definition. Let's get right into it:

Click through to watch the clip.

Click through to watch the clip.

Here is another classic pricing game from The Price Is Right. Watch Danger Price and then use what you know about probability to answer these questions.
(a) What is the probability of winning Danger Price if the contestant plays blindly         (i.e. just guessing)?
(b) Are there strategies a savvy contestant can use to increase their chances of winning Danger Price?
(c) The actual probability of winning Danger Price based on historical data is .361. What does this imply about your answer to part b?

You can get 40 years of pricing game stats here. Freaking awesome.

A few more Danger Price plays from the TPIR Web site.

TPIR 01: Flip Flop

I can remember watching The New Price is Right with my grandmother way back in the 70's and perhaps that is why I still love it today. Anyhow, I have found TPIR to be fantastic for engaging my students in probability and hooking them into analyzing some pretty complicated probability problems. Sometimes we analyze these clips in class, but frequently I just mix a TPIR question in with their homework. Going forward I am going to pretend that all these TPIR questions are from homework problems. I almost always assign my math homework on Google Docs. Every night students get a new Google Doc with a variety of problems on it, many are Exeter style problems, but I have found other problem styles (like these TPIR problems work really well on a Google Doc also) If I am really playing my A game the problems will be completely spiraled (like Exeter) and my students might get say 1 or 2 probability questions a night over multiple weeks until we have unwittingly learned a ton of probability. At Exeter math students can all meet in the evening to collaborate on their math homework (the Exeter math books even talk about this). At day (not boarding) schools this is usually not possible. This is why Google Docs works so well. Students go online in the evening and «talk» about their math homework on the doc. So after watching this probability problem I would expect my kids to begin analyzing it. We would then continue the discussion in class.

Click through to watch the clip.

Click through to watch the clip.

I bet we can learn some Probability by analyzing the world's best gameshow The Price Is Right. Let's start with an easy one. Watch this pricing game called Flip Flop and then answer these questions.
(a) Are their any strategies a savvy contestant can use to increase their chances of winning this game?
(b) What is the probability of winning the game if the contestant plays blindly (i.e. just makes a wild guess)?