This class will examine both the meaning and the mathematics of probabilities in everyday life. Specific topics may include margins of error in polls, the interpretation of medical studies, long run averages in casinos, games involving dice and cards, the nature of coincidences, the use of utility functions to make decisions, and how mathematics is best taught and best learned.

Instructor: Professor Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, Department of Statistics, University of Toronto. Sidney Smith Hall, room 6024; phone (416) 978-4594;; 'jeff' at ''

Time: Wednesdays, 2-4. First class Sept 14. Last class of first semester Dec 7. First class of second semester Jan 11. Last class April 12. No class Feb 22 (Reading Week).

Place: Sidney Smith Hall, room 2129.

Textbook: Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities (HarperCollins Canada, 2005), available from the U of T Bookstore or from e.g. (This book will provide a starting point for our discussions, but we will also probe more deeply into some of the topics.)



  1. Classes will involve a combination of presentations from the instructor, student cooperative work in small groups, and whole-class discussion.
  2. To obtain class participation points, students are expected to punctually attend class each week, to enthusiastically participate in discussions and activities during class time, and to conscientiously keep up with readings and other (small) weekly assignments. In particular, it is crucial to have excellent attendance, and to speak up often and listen carefully to others during whole-class discussions.
  3. The Minor Paper will be 5-10 pages (typed double spaced), and the Major Paper will be 10-20 pages (typed double spaced). You will have considerable flexibility in the choice of topic. Details will be discussed later.
  4. For assistance with writing essays, see the resources on the web page Writing at the University of Toronto. See also the First-Year Initiative.

This document is available at