In all probability

Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40h) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation. 


​Tutors: Sarah Kaakai/ PhD student in mathematics, Pierre Boisard/ sociologist

Project manager: Anna Mezey


In mathematics, can a random event be calculated? Probabilities and statistics would seem to imply that the answer is yes. In that case, how do we go about analysing what would seem to be pure chance? With the help of a mathematician and assisted by a sociologist, the students conduct a survey and try to interpret their everyday lives using statistics tools.

Our days are numbered
The contributor explains examples of statistics using, among other things, examples of opinion polls from the press. The students then carry out several exercises with her assistance: what is the probability of its being a boy or a girl if someone is chosen at random from the class? What is the probability that this person has a smartphone? Etc.

Surveys at school
The students choose a survey theme connected to leisure activities and applied to all the students in the final year of middle school. With the sociologist, they draw up a questionnaire taking into account what are known as “variables to measure” (qualitative and quantitative), open-ended or closed-ended questions, so-called “socio-demographic” questions, etc. A questionnaire of around 20 questions is used to carry out a survey among the other final-year classes. The responses obtained are encoded by the students using a grid.  

Descriptive statistics
The questionnaires have supplied statistics and it is now time to verify whether or not they provide answers to the questions, and to which questions, with regard to students’ leisure activities. At this point, the class also learns about margins of error and the notion of uncertainty. With the contributor, the students suggest counter-intuitive cross-checks: is there a relationship between students who listen to music every day and those who never read? Between those who play video games and those who play football? Between boys and girls? 

From 13th – 21st June 2016, the middle school published a selection of the survey results using an installation of neon signs in the hall: 31% play video games every day – of these 33 people, there are 4 girls i.e. 12%. Amongst the girls, only 36% play video games; amongst the boys, the figure is 95%. 66% listen to music on the Internet, etc. 



Participating school:
- Class 3eF, Collège Paul Eluard, Montreuil


Photo and scenography: E.DESCOUBES

In all probability