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    10 - 12 Grades
This volume is part of the monograph series of the New Liberal Arts Program (1980-1992), a project of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The NLA Program had the goal of assisting in the introduction of quantitative reasoning and concepts of modern technology within liberal education. The Program was based on the conviction that college graduates should have been introduced to both areas if they are to live in the social mainstream and participate in the resolution of policy issues. The Center for Mathematics and Quantitative Education is delighted to make these monographs available.


An Introduction to Risk

Newton Copp
Joint Science Department
The Claremont Colleges

Decisions about vaccines are not easy to make. It is not a matter of finding out simply whether a vaccine does or does not work. We live in a probabilistic world in which all vaccines carry degrees of risk and benefit. Our task is to determine as precisely and accurately as possible what these various degrees are and how they add up to a decision.

Three case studies of diseases and their vaccines are described in this monograph. Smallpox, swine flu, and whooping cough have presented different sorts of problems for people trying to decide whether to be vaccinated or take their chances with the disease. The historical context in which these case studies are presented suggests how our current notions of risk and medical science developed

The mathematics is all elementary probability. There are nine problems, six of which are mathematical in nature.