University of Connecticut College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Department of Mathematics
Tom Roby's Math 3160 Home Page (Fall 2015)

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Class Information

COORDINATES: Classes meet Tuesdays and Thursdays:

  • Section 3: Tues/Thurs 12:30–1:45 in MSB 311; and
  • Section 6: Tues/Thurs 2:00–3:15 in MSB 411.

PREREQUISITES: Math 2110Q or equivalent experience.

TEXT: Sheldon Ross: A First Course in Probability, 9th Edition.

WEBPAGE: The homepage for this course is There is also a Piazza Homepage, which has links to class notes, HW, and discussions forums. Please post your questions there rather than emailing them to me. That way the entire class can benefit from the discussion. Some others web resources are listed below, including the 3160 webpage of Joe P. Chen, with whom I'm collaborating on flipping this class. He has a link to "Advice from former 3160 students" that you may find particularly helpful.

FLIPPED CLASSROOM: We will take a Flipped Classroom approach to this course. This means that you will be responsible for watching short video minilectures on upcoming topics BEFORE each class meeting. This will allow us to spend more classtime with students actively engaged in solving problems and more two-way discussions.

SCHEDULE/SYLLABUS: A tentative daily schedule will be posted here shortly.

GRADING: Your grade will be based on two midterm exams, one final exam, weekly quizzes and homework.

The breakdown of points is:

HW Quizzes Midterm 1 Midterm 2 Final
15% 15% 20% 20% 30%

MIDTERM EXAMS: Will cover all the material up to that point in the term. They are currently scheduled for THURSDAY 8 OCTOBER 2015 and THURSDAY 12 NOVEMBER 2015 during our usual class meeting. Please let me know immediately if you have a conflict with those dates. There are no makeup exams.

QUIZZES: Quizzes will be given every class to make sure that you are keeping up with the video lectures. material from the previous week. The best way to prepare for them is to view them carefully (possibly more than once) and work as manyproblems as possible. The first quiz will be . Both older and more recent educational research seems to indicate students do better at retaining information with regular quizzes than with the common approach of just two midterms and a final. Those of you going onto careers as Actuaries will have an exam on approximately the material of this course early in your careers.

HOMEWORK: Homework will be assigned most weeks, and should be attempted by the following TUESDAY, when I will be happy to answer questions or provide hints. It will generally be handed in on Thursdays at the start of class, just before the quiz. Since I may discuss the homework problems in class the day they are due, late assignments will be accepted only under the most extreme circumstances. (Please let me know as soon as possible if you find yourself with a situation that might qualify.) The lowest written homework score will be dropped in any event.

The book has many exercises for each chapter, and I recommend you also attempt a number of those that are unassigned with answers in the back. If you get stuck on one, feel free to ask! The homework assignments will be posted on the Piazza page.

You may find some homework problems to be challenging, even frustrating, leading you to spend lots of time and effort working on them. This is a natural part of doing mathematics, faced by everyone from school children to top researchers. I encourage you to work with other people in person or electronically, and particularly to avail yourself of the discussion boards on Piazza. It's OK to get significant help from any resource, but in the end, please write your own solution in your own words. Copying someone else's work without credit is plagiarism and will be dealt with according to university policy. It also is a poor learning strategy.

SOFTWARE: While doing some computations by hand is generally essential for learning, having software that can do bigger computations or check one's work is very useful. I recommend the free open-source computer algebra system Sage, which has an extensively-developed collection of objects and algorithms implemented for many areas of mathematics, including combinatorics.

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY: Please make sure you are familiar with and abide by The Student Code governing Academic Integrity in Undergraduate Education and Research. For quizzes and exams you may not discuss the material with anyone other than the instructor or offical proctor, and no calculators, phones, slide rules or other devices designed to aid communication or computation may be used.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Many people have influenced my approach to this material, particularly Scott Sheffield and James Propp.

CONTENT: Probability Theory is a fascinating topic in mathematics dealing with random phenomena. The modern theory is currently very actively researched by mathematicians in a variety of subfields, with deep connections to very challenging questions in analysis, geometry, and combinatorics. There are also numerous applications in science, engineering, business and games of chance, the latter being the original motivation. In fact, probability theory underlies the study of statistics, which provides useful insights in many fields of human endeavor, from medicine to politics.

Probability is also a fun topic, beyond its connection with games. There are certain paradoxes that come up, where the truth appears to be counterintuitive--at least until one develops better intuition about how random processes work. We'll explore some of these as we go along.

ACCESSIBILITY & DISABILITY ISSUES: Please contact me and UConn's Center for Students with Disabilities as soon as possible if you have any accessibility issues, have a (documented) disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, or if you would need assistance in the event of an emergency.

LEARNING: The only way to learn mathematics is by doing it! Complete each assignment to the best of your ability, and get help when you are confused. Come to class prepared with questions. Don't hesitate to seek help from other students. Sometimes the point of view of someone who has just figured something out can be the most helpful.

Especially for learning this subject, it is important to do lots of problems—many more than I could reasonably assign you to hand in. Note that almost all problems are word problems, and careful attention to language is imperative.

CLASSTIME: In order to get through the essential material, video minilectures will be posted and classtime will be fast-paced. I will post slides on the Piazza page that summarize some of what we did, but will also work out many things on the board. There will not be time to "cover" all material in class, so you will need to read and learn some topics on your own from the text, handouts, web sources, or otherwise. If you have to miss a class for some reason, please find out from a classmate what happened in class beyond what was in the video lectures, handouts and slides for that day.

Web Resources


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