Paul the Octopus RIP

Remember Paul the Octopus? He was either the marine psychic that hindered and amused the football-watching world, or a very lucky guesser. Or some kind of heinous seafood stitch-up was taking place.

During the 2010 World Cup, Paul the Octopus correctly expected the winning team in each of Germany’s six games, by choosing a mussel from a box emblazoned with the country’s flag. He then went on to predict the winners, Spain, in the final against the Netherlands.

Paul has sadly passed on to the great ocean in the sky to meet his eight-legged maker. But there is a substitute, imaginatively called Paul, now inhabiting the same tank as his predecessor. Will the prodigy prove to have the same psychic football-predicting powers? Will he last long enough to show us? – the European Championships are nevertheless 20 months away.

What are the chances of predicting the winning team in 7 consecutive football matches, if each prediction has a 50:50 chance? NCETM have provided a resource for teachers on this very topic and the introduction to probability and chance can form the basis for an interesting mathematical investigation. This task can be used at meaningful Stage 4 (using simple probability tree diagrams, for example) or with an A-Level class looking into the binomial theorem.

Internet rumours have been circulating that Paul truly died before the World Cup final and the Spanish victory was expected by an octo-imposter. But in any case the truth, so long Paul, and thanks for all the super-natural ability.

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