Math 20: Discrete Probability

Last updated March 5, 2013

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Course Information




Course Information


Course Objectives

In this class we cover discrete probability, which might be described as the study of experiments with a discrete (usually finite) collection of possible outcomes. Some familiar examples of such experiments include flipping coins and shuffling cards. Through both rigorous mathematical reasoning and looking at simulations of events, we will gain a better understanding of the way probability works.





Introduction to Probability (2nd Edition)
by Charles M. Grinstead and J. Laurie Snell


An online version of the textbook is available (free-of-charge) here and a printed version is available at Wheelock Books.

A nice feature of this book, from the perspective of Dartmouth students, is that many of the examples and exercises are set at Dartmouth. Both of the authors of this textbook were Dartmouth professors at some point.




In order to get a good intuition about probability, it will be important to test out some simulations on your own. Here are some python scripts I have written that will allow you to simulate various probabilistic experiments. If you have a python interpreter on your computer, you can copy and paste them into that interpreter. If not, you can either download one (recommended!) or else use one online. (Be sure to set it to run in Python; it won't work if you run it in C!) Some of these programs include graphics. These will not run in the online interpreter. They will run if you have an interpreter on your computer and install the matplotlit and numpy packages.

Feel free to modify these programs and try other experiments if you know how.

There are also some good probability simulations elsewhere on the internet that you should have fun playing with.




Here are some articles that you may find interesting/useful:




The course grade will be computed as follows:


Percent of Final Grade








Honor Principle

You are allowed, and even encouraged, to work with other students on the homework problems, but you must write up your solutions independently and in your own words. You may also consult other people or sources other than the course text, your class notes, and the instructor when working on the problems. However, you are expected to understand the solutions you write.

All exams are closed book, with no notes or calculators allowed. No help will be given or received.

Disabilities, Religious Observances, Etc.

Students with disabilities enrolled in this course and who may need disability-related classroom accommodations are encouraged to make an appointment to see your instructor before the end of the second week of the term. All discussions will remain confidential, although the Student Accessibility Services office may be consulted to discuss appropriate implementation of any accommodation requested.

Some students may wish to take part in religious observances that occur during this academic term. If you have a religious observance that conflicts with your participation in the course, please meet with your instructor before the end of the second week of the term to discuss appropriate accommodations.