Rock, Paper, Scissors

I just saw a tweet that one of the talks at the California Math Council Conference that I attend every December in Asilomar is going to be about everyone’s favorite way of figuring out who gets the bigger piece of cake or who gets to ride shotgun. That’s right – a whole talk on Rock, Paper, Scissors. Apparently, it may not be as fair as we all thought. But, you wonder, isn’t it all just a random game of chance? Well, games of chance and probability are often not as they appear. One of the more famous cases is called the Monty Hall problem. It goes something like this…

Monty Hall ran a game show, and one of the games involved three doors. Behind two of those doors, there were two goats. Behind the third door, there was a brand new car. You (the contestant) would pick one of those three doors. Monty Hall would then open one of the two remaining doors, and ask you if you want to stick with your original door or switch. The question that comes up is, is it better to stick with your original door, is it better to switch, or does it matter? The answer may surprise you!

Monty Hall opens door number 1 with a  goat, while the contestant thinks about door number 3.

What probability questions or games of chance interest you, and why?