SCI 199Y, L0411: PROBABILITIES EVERYWHERE (2008-9)
This course will examine both the meaning and the mathematics of
probabilities, and how they arise in everyday life, in news and current
events, in movies, and elsewhere. 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,
crime statistics, the use of utility functions to make decisions,
the use of probabilities to block spam e-mail messages, the role of
randomness in evolution, pseudorandomness, Monte Carlo algorithms,
and how mathematics is best taught and best learned.
To succeed in this course, it is necessary to actively participate in
class discussions, and enthusiastically consider a variety of logical,
mathematical, and societal issues from a variety of perspectives.
Prerequisite: At least one grade 12 mathematics course
(or the equivalent from another country).
Time: Wednesdays, 2-4. (First class Sept 10.)
Place: Sidney Smith Hall, room 2129.
Course Web Page:
Struck by Lightning:
The Curious World of Probabilities,
available from the U of T Bookstore or from e.g. amazon.ca.
(This book will provide a starting point for our discussions, but we
will also probe more deeply into some of the topics.)
Professor Jeffrey S. Rosenthal,
Department of Statistics, University of Toronto.
Sidney Smith Hall, room 6024; phone (416) 978-4594;
- 50% for Class Attendance and Participation
- 20% for Minor Paper
(due towards end of first semester)
- 30% for Major Paper
(due towards end of second semester)
- Classes will involve a combination of presentations from the
instructor, student cooperative work in small groups, and whole-class
- 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
- The Minor Paper will be 5-10 pages (typed double spaced), and the Major
Paper will be 10-15 pages (typed double spaced). You will have significant
flexibility in the choice of topic. Details will be discussed later.
For assistance with writing essays, see the resources on the web page
Writing at the University of
Toronto, including about
and also ELL.
See also the
U of T Library,