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I am a Math teacher in a private school in the US. A majority of students consider probability and statistics a very boring topic and tend to focus significantly less compared to other topics. So last semester I reworked the curriculum and started playing games with decks of playing cards. I encouraged students to calculate probabilities, expected values, etc then come up with strategies to improve their odds of winning. I saw a meaningful boost in both engagement and grades.

I shared this teaching method in a message group. Some public school teachers liked the idea but had reservations about the legality of the content. They were worried about playing cards' connection to gambling, which could "raise the eyebrows of school boards and other authorities". As far as I know minors playing card games is fine as long as there is no money or other things that have monetary value on the line.

Of course school districts could decide to ban such content if they considered it undesirable, but is there any education-related legislation in any state that explicitly states that "material that incites or resembles real-life gambling" cannot be used in schools, blocking them from being introduced to the classroom in the first place?

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    Do the exercises contain specific gambling games (e.g. calculating blackjack odds), or ask for gambling strategies specifically (e.g. "what should you bet on in this scenario?"). Your description leaves it unclear as to whether it's purely focused on the existence of playing cards, or potential gambling-related examples/exercises that you generate from that deck of cards.
    – Flater
    Aug 8, 2023 at 3:56
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    You might want to consider other authorities. e.g., where I live, Washington State has a "gambling commission". I worked in a video game arcade with redemption games that handed out tickets, and as store manager I needed to meet staff from the commission (it was no more than once a year). They explained I needn't worry as I'm only there because of a technicality, as their real main targets are casinos. Now, if I was school administration, I might not want curriculum to cause requirements like needing to submit to such oversight. So, "is it legal?" might not be the only relevant consideration
    – TOOGAM
    Aug 8, 2023 at 6:42
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    Anecdotal, under the IB system (I think off the official curriculum, but I don't know) we a single lesson (3 hours or so) where we did a bunch of gambling related calculations where the answer was always 'the house always wins'. It was both a PSA why gambling is 'stupid' and a decent enough lesson. Aug 8, 2023 at 6:45
  • Have you considered just using cards other than "Playing Cards"? Technically. Playing Cards are very specifically the cards that are used in playing games of chance (i.e., gambling). There are however, many Dedicated Game Card sets that still have all of the properties that you need to study the "without replacement" type of probabilities and statistics that you mentioned. Rook and Uno are the most well known, but there are many others as well. Aug 8, 2023 at 13:27
  • There are lots of schools that have bridge clubs. But there could be a difference between using cards as part of the curriculum and as an extracurricular activity.
    – Barmar
    Aug 8, 2023 at 14:57

1 Answer 1

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Quite the opposite; although playing cards are not specifically mentioned, gambling education is actively encouraged in schools: but through the support of charities and the voluntary sector - not by statute.

The key players are:

Gambling prevention education handbook

 provides a set of evidence-based principles to deliver effective gambling education for anyone who works with young people (aged 7 to 24) in a paid or voluntary capacity across a variety of formal and informal settings, including schools in England. 


Although tagged , I have answered according to the LawSE Help Centre: "we expect and encourage answers dealing with other jurisdictions ... please tag your answer using the tag markdown: [tag: some-tag]"

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  • There may be similar provisions within the united-kingdom's devolved nations that mirror this answer to some extent but I have focused purely on england to avoid the noise of duplication.
    – user35069
    Aug 7, 2023 at 20:03
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    Wow! Very good that there is education about such stuff! Indeed, after all, it was originally the desire to have a rational understanding of gambling that led to the mathematical subject of "probability". Descartes, I think, and many others. :) Aug 7, 2023 at 20:45
  • Does the UK PSHE syllabus include any mathematics? The description above could all be covered under a social sciences banner, with reference to personal and social consequences without covering any of the probability positions involved in the industry.
    – Jontia
    Aug 8, 2023 at 10:27
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    @Jontia no, PHSE assumes an age-appropriate mathematical background but doesn't teach it (there's enough squeezed in without trying to duplicate other sections of the curriculum)
    – Chris H
    Aug 8, 2023 at 12:01
  • I'd say this is closer to having laws against playing cards than it is to the opposite (but playing cards without betting isn't gambling). These resources are about "Gambling prevention education". That certainly doesn't seem like it'd involve children gambling in class, but rather involves teaching them about the harms of gambling, so they know to stay away from it and/or how to do it safely, similar to educating children about sex (which certainly isn't similar to children having sex in class).
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 8, 2023 at 12:34

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