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Learning area: Mathematics
Year level: Year 2
Country: Japan
General capability: Intercultural understanding

This learning sequence focuses on developing student familiarity with chance and the language associated with chance events. The activities support the Australian Curriculum for Mathematics: Statistics and Probability.

Students identify everyday events involving chance and describe how likely they are to occur. They explore games, contexts and superstitions drawn from a range of cultures found in the Asia region.

diceDice are used to play games of luck


Image: AEF

Related resources

Activity 1: Chance words

In this activity students will discuss the use and meaning of words associated with fairness, luck and chance events such as games involving dice and spinners. Students discuss the meanings of these words and put them into groups having similar meanings.

Task 1: Chance words

  1. Ask students to nominate words they associate with games of chance; for example, when discussing their chance of winning a board game or swimming race, or whether a game or decision is fair or unfair.
  2. Provide students, or small groups of students, with sets of words using language of chance. You may wish to create sets of words in a variety of colours so students can't mix the sets.
  3. Language of chance provides a collection of word labels to do with chance, some of which students may already be familiar with. Include blank spaces for additional words students suggest.

Task 2: Word meanings

  1. In small groups, discuss the meanings of the words and group those with a similar meaning.
  2. Some groups that could be used are:
    • those that suggest never
    • those that suggest always
    • those that mean something in-between.
  3. Ask students to look at the words they have grouped as 'in-between' words. See if they can make some distinctions between the meanings of each word and create further sub-groupings.
  4. Discuss the criteria they used to support their decisions.

Activity 2: Being lucky

In some countries and cultures large numbers of people consider certain numbers and symbols to be lucky or unlucky. Some of these beliefs have existed for hundreds of years. These beliefs might take the form of superstitions, some of which may be very strongly believed by older family members.

Prior to starting this activity, arrange for your students to ask their parents if they have lucky numbers or symbols or if they are aware of superstitions related to the country they were born in. Explain that they will be using this information to complete a table of beliefs and superstitions.

Task 1: I'm lucky

  1. Arrange the students in pairs and ask them to share their answers to the questions listed in the clouds.
  2. Bring the class back together as a group and share some of the answers given.
  3. Develop a shared definition for the term 'lucky'.

Task 2: Superstitions

  1. Show student the list of Superstitions and ask them to add their personal lucky or unlucky numbers and symbols.
  2. Discuss with the students what we mean by a superstition. Provide some examples such as:
    • Some people believe that walking under a ladder brings bad luck.
    • Some people believe that 7 is a lucky number and 13 is an unlucky number.
    • In China, the number 8 and the colour red are widely regarded as bringing good luck. The date of the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was deliberately chosen to be 8 August 2008 (8–8–2008). The ceremony commenced at 8 minutes past 8 o'clock in the evening.
  3. Discuss whether these are rational claims.
  4. Ask students to add any superstitions and beliefs held by members of their households.
  5. Ask students to use an internet search to investigate superstitions in cultures in the Asia region. Ask them to write the superstition and the culture it comes from on blank Superstition cards.

Task 3: Acting out

  1. Collect the superstition cards and discuss what each may mean.
  2. Ask students to select a card and illustrate the superstition or belief and its consequence. Suggest that the illustrations should include some reference to the culture of origin; for example, the name of the country or the country's flag. Make a classroom display of the illustrations.
  3. Allow small groups of students to select a superstition and 'act out' the superstition for the rest of the class.

Task 4: More or less likely?

  1. Create a set of cards with paired events such those shown below. Ask students to discuss the events on the cards and suggest, for each pair, which event is more likely to happen or whether the two events have the same chance of occurring.
  2. Discuss some of the paired events. Ask students to suggest some additional paired events and add them to blank More likely/Less likely cards. How likely is that? provides a mat with three statements:
  3. Ask students to work in pairs and explain that they will be looking at each pair of events and discussing the likelihood of them occurring.
  4. When they have completed their discussion ask them to place the events next to the most appropriate statement.
  5. Once they have placed all the events on the mat, discuss their selections and ask them to justify their answers.

More or less likely

  • It will be sunny tomorrow
  • Throwing a 6 on a die
  • Throwing a 4 on a die
  • Spinning red on a spinner with 2 red sections and 4 blue sections
  • Spinning red on a spinner with 5 red sections and 1 blue section
  • I will see a Chinese dragon on my way home from school this afternoon
  • I will see a horse on my way home from school this afternoon
  • I will have Chinese food for tea
  • I will have Indian food for tea
  • Seeing a Tasmanian Tiger at a zoo
  • Seeing a Chinese panda at a zoo
  • The next person to come into our classroom will be the Principal
  • The next person to come into our classroom will be the Prime Minister
  • Tossing a TAIL using a 20 cent coin
  • Tossing a TAIL using a 1 dollar coin
  • Tossing a coin and getting a TAIL
  • Throwing a die and getting a 5


Image: AEF

Activity 3: Legend of the crane

In this activity, students will discuss what it means to be 'lucky'. Students suggest and discuss their personal lucky numbers, colours and symbols, and compare them with those from other cultures.

Task: The story of the crane

In Japan, cranes are regarded as a symbol of good luck. Japanese people make paper (origami) cranes as gifts of good fortune and long life. Howard Reeves retells the Japanese story, The legend of the crane. The story explains the origins of the crane becoming a Japanese symbol of good health and prosperity. Cranes are also regarded as a symbol of peace.

  1. Read the story to the class and discuss what is meant by the term legend.
  2. Ask students to answer the following questions:
    • Why do the Japanese consider cranes to be lucky?
    • What might have happened if the old man didn't help the crane?

The legend of the crane: a Japanese tale

Once upon a time an old man couldn't find food for his family and began to walk home. He didn't know what he was going to tell his wife. As he was walking through a field of tall grass, he heard someone crying. He peered through the grass and saw a beautiful crane caught in the bushes. The old man used his knife to cut the crane free.

That night a beautiful young woman knocked at the door of the old couple's hut searching for shelter from the cold. They felt sorry for her, gave her their last bowl of rice and prepared a bed for her in their weaving room.

Next morning the young woman wanted to cook breakfast for the old couple to say thank you but there was no food in the house. She locked herself in her room with the loom, telling the old couple they must not disturb her. After some time she came out of the room with a beautiful kimono cloth and asked them to sell it for her. The money they received bought enough food to feed the old couple and their guest for several days.

Eventually the money ran out and they were hungry again. Once more the young woman went to the room with the loom and wove another beautiful cloth for the old couple to sell. However, the old couple noticed that the young woman began to look increasingly unwell.

The old man was worried about his guest and decided to check on her while she was weaving. Imagine his surprise when he opened the door and instead of the young woman he saw a white crane weaving its own feathers into kimono cloth on the loom.

Upon hearing him, the crane turned into the young woman again and told the man she was the crane he had rescued from the bushes. 'I wanted to repay your kindness, but now I must leave as you know the truth.'

She stretched her arms until they turned into wings and flew out of the window.

The crane is a symbol of good fortune and long life. To possess one thousand cranes is to be assured of health and prosperity.


This tale is retold by Howard Reeves and is adapted from the traditional Japanese story, The legend of the crane.

Image: Crane, Wikimedia Commons.

Activity 4: Jan-ken-pon

In this activity, students will play the Japanese version of rock-paper-scissors,  jan-ken-pon. There are many additional versions in cultures throughout the world.

Task 1: Practising jan-ken-pon

Students select a partner, face each other and chant jan-ken-pon while making rhythmical up and down movements with their arms. On 'pon' each student makes one of three hand gestures:

  • A clenched fist represents a stone.
  • A flat hand represents a sheet of paper.
  • A V-shape formed by the index finger and second finger represents a pair of scissors.
There are four possible outcomes:
  1. Rock beats scissors because rock can blunt scissors.
  2. Paper beats rock because paper can wrap around rock.
  3. Scissors beat paper because scissors can cut paper.
  4. The fourth possible outcome is when you make the same gesture. You must then chant 'aikodesho' and begin again. If the students make the same gesture a second time, they chant 'sho – sho – sho and this is the chant they use until one player wins.

Task 2: Other games to play with jan-ken-pon

Divide into two teams and stand facing each other:

  1. Opposing pairs play jan-ken-pon. The winner in each pair raises a hand and scores a point for his/her team. The team with the most points wins.
  2. The teams stand facing each other, with a chair behind each student. The first student in each team moves forward and this pair plays jan-ken-pon until there is a winner. The loser sits down and the next opponent from the losing team moves forward and plays. The loser always sits down; the winner keeps on playing until one of the teams has no more players standing.
  3. Each student in a pair starts with five counters. They play jan-ken-pon with the losers handing over a counter after each game. The winner is the player finishing with ten counters.


Images: AEF

In this learning sequence, students learn about words, chance events, games and superstitions as the basis of making the development of language and the acquisition of knowledge of other cultures relevant to those represented in the classroom.

Where schools have a language program that begins in the early years of schooling, there is an opportunity to integrate some of the language of chance. This can include lucky colours, lucky numbers and expressions associated with luck.

Activity 1: Language of chance

Students discuss the use and meaning of words associated with fairness, luck and chance events such as games involving dice and spinners. A collection of words relating to likelihood is developed using Language of chance the basis of the collection.

Students discuss the meanings of these words and put them into groups having similar meanings.

Activity 2: Being lucky

Students discuss what it means to be 'lucky'. They suggest and discuss their personal lucky numbers, colours and symbols, and compare them with those from other cultures.

They discuss the nature of beliefs or superstitions and consider superstitions held by some people in a variety of cultures, including those from the Asia region. A collection of Superstitions is provided. Additional superstitions can be nominated by the teacher and students to be added and used in the activity.

Students discuss pairs of chance events and are required to identify which of the events is more likely to occur. In some cases, the events might be equally likely to occur. The teacher and/or class can nominate pairs of events to be included and used in the activity.

Activity 3: Legend of the crane

The legend of the crane is one of a number of children's stories about cranes and their association with good luck, happiness and longevity in Japanese culture.

The construction of paper cranes using origami techniques is an optional follow-up activity.

Activity 4: Jan-ken-pon

Students are introduced to the simple game of jan-ken-pon, the Japanese version of the game known in Australia as rock-paper-scissors.

The activity includes photographs of hand gestures used in the game and versions of the game that may be played between pairs of students and teams.

Associated learning

In the early years of schooling students tend to have distorted and mostly self-focused views about what is lucky or unlucky and fair or unfair. As students complete the activities they will begin to recognise and develop their ideas and language associated with chance events. They will describe the likelihood of an event occurring using words that range from impossible to certain.

The activities will assist students to:

  • develop language associated with chance
  • explore chance events, including those from the countries of the Asia region.

This module provides opportunities for the class to contribute and include terms, phrases and their own superstitions. .

Useful websites

  • Thousand origami cranes – background information about the significance of origami cranes in Japanese culture (Wikipedia)
  • It is recommended that teachers preview websites to ensure that they are suitable for their students prior to use in class. Content accessed via these links is not owned or controlled by Asia Education Foundation and is subject to the terms of use of the associated website.
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