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CENTER FOR INQUIRY BASED LEARNING

Mathematics Department - University of Michigan
   
           
 
 

Courses

MATH 310: CHOICE AND CHANCE

Content: Every day the media showers us with news, analysis, and op-eds, which use and misuse numbers to arrive at various far-reaching conclusions. The objective of the course is to help students to acquire some basic mathematical skills to navigate in the sea of numbers. Often, this boils down to understanding a few fundamental, ancient, and deep concepts:

randomness, fairness, coincidence, and bias.

We will study what "probability", "events", and "independence" mean, how to compute some basic probabilities and why it can be costly to assume that events are independent when in fact they are not, as illustrated by recent and not so recent events in the insurance industry and the stock market. We will also discuss why randomized strategies in games can be quite helpful.

The course is somewhat in spirit of the book "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper" by J.A. Paulos appended by examples taken from the "Chance" database at Dartmouth http://www.dartmouth.edu/~chance/

Time permitting, we will discuss some remarkably exact predictions of the 2008 elections results made with the help of some statistical analysis.

Materials: There is no recommended text. Materials will be prepared and distributed in class. Please contact Ralf Spatzier for more information.