Math 380 - Probability Theory
Fall 2014

Instructor: Elizabeth Meckes

Office: Yost 208

Phone: 368-5015

Email: ese3 [at]

Office Hours: M, 2pm -- 3pm; Th, 2:30pm -- 3:30pm

Textbook: A First Course in Probability, 8e/9e by Sheldon Ross

Topics and rough schedule: We will cover most of chapters 1 through 8, with additional material if time permits. The schedule will be roughly as follows:

TopicsBook chaptersWeeks
Combinatorial analysis
Axioms of probability
Conditional probability and independence
1,2,3 1-4
Random variables 4,5 5-8
Joint distributions 6 9-10
Expectation 7 11-12
Limit theorems and other topics 8,9 13-14

In addition to attending the lectures, you should be reading the text book since there won't be time to discuss all the material in class.

Homework Problems: How much you work on the homework problems is probably the single biggest factor in determining how much you get out of the course. If you are having trouble with the problems, please come ask for help; you will learn much more (and probably get a rather better grade) if you figure out all of the homework problems, possibly with help in office hours or from your classmates, than if you do them alone when you can and skip the ones you can't.

Each lecture has specific homework problems associated to it, as listed in the chart below. I strongly suggest doing the homework the same day as the corresponding lecture, or the next day at the latest (see in particular the figure I passed out on the first day of class titled "The value of rehearsal after a lecture").

Some of the homework is hard on purpose! The way you really learn this stuff is to struggle with it, and to talk about it, with me and your classmates.

Quizzes: There will be six hour-long quizzes throughout the term. The tentative dates are September 12, September 26, October 10, October 24, November 14, and December 5. The quizzes are closed-book and will consist of several problems chosen directly from the assigned homework.

Grading: Your five highest quiz scores are each worth 15% of the course grade, and the final is worth 25%. The lowest quiz score will be dropped.

A couple articles worth reading:

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits appeared in the Times in Fall 2010. It offers some advice about studying based on current pedagogical research.

Teaching and Human Memory, Part 2 from The Chronicle of Higher Education in December 2011. Its intended audience is professors, but I think it's worth it for students to take a look as well.

Assignments: Howework is posted below -- I do not use blackboard! (See Dave Noon's take.) When something of the form "n/m" appears below, it refers to exercise "n" from the 8th edition of the book, and exercise "m" from the 9th edition.

Please note that the book has separate sections marked "problems" and "theoretical exercises".

LectureChapter(s)ProblemsTheoretical exercises
M 8/25  2 4, 6 2, 3, 4
W 8/27  2 9, 135, 9, 12
F 8/29  1
7, 8, 14
2, extra problem
W 9/3  1 10, 19, 3113, 14
F 9/5  1
15, 26, 27
23 (Hint: you may use the result of T.E. 11)
M 9/8  2 32, 44, 45, 54 extra problem
W 9/10  2 52, 55extra problem
M 9/15  3 8, 13, 18 1, 3
W 9/17  3 22, 27, 376, extra problems
F 9/19  3 44, 5311, 15
M 9/22  3 46, 8614, 28