This course examines the meaning and mathematics of probabilities, and how they arise in our everyday lives. Specific topics may include: the nature of coincidences, the concept of luck, games involving dice and cards, long run averages in casinos, margins of error in polls, the interpretation of medical studies, crime statistics, decision making, pseudorandomness, and Monte Carlo algorithms.

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 12, last class Dec 5, no class Nov 7 (Reading Week).

Location: Sidney Smith Hall (SS), room 2120.

Required Textbook: Knock On Wood: Luck, Chance, and the Meaning of Everything, now available at the U of T Bookstore and (or kindle edition) and and University College Library and Toronto Public Libraries.

Course Web Page:

Instructor: Professor Jeffrey S. Rosenthal, Department of Statistics, University of Toronto. Sidney Smith Hall, room 5022; phone 416-978-4594; e-mail

20% Class attendance / punctuality / preparation / attention
30% Participation in class activities and discussions
25% Homework assignments
25% Final essay


  1. Classes will involve both student cooperative work in small groups, and whole-class discussion sessions.
  2. 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 homework. It is crucial to have excellent attendance and be punctual, to show interest and enthusiasm in class activities, and to speak up often and listen carefully to others during whole-class discussions.
  3. Weekly homework will often involve reading from the textbook or other source, and answering various questions about what you have read.
  4. For assistance with writing and studying skills, see the resources on the web page Writing at the University of Toronto and the Writing Centres, and also ELL and Accessibility Services and Academic Success and How Not To Plagiarize, and also the U of T Library including their research help.

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