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Welcome to CHANCE!

Mathematics 5: CHANCE is a new, experimental math course. The standard elementary math course develops a body of mathematics in a systematic way and gives some highly simplified real-world examples in the hope of suggesting the importance of the subject. In the course CHANCE, we will choose serious applications of probability and statistics and make these the focus of the course, developing concepts in probability and statistics only to the extent necessary to understand the applications. The goal is to make students more literate in statistics and probability, and to motivate them to continue their study of mathematics.

The journal Chance, started by Springer in l988, is the inspiration for this course. In its brief existence, Chance has attracted some of the leading workers in probability and statistics to write articles on subjects of current interest in a way understandable by a reader with little previous knowledge of probability and statistics. Topics that have been covered in Chance include:

Other topics that have been recently discussed in the press and popular journals such as Nature, Science and Scientific American are:

In the course of the term, we will choose six to ten separate topics to discuss with special emphasis on topics currently in the news. We will start by reading a newspaper account of the topic. In most cases this will be the account in the New York Times. We will then study the treatments in journals like Chance, Science, Nature, and Scientific American. These articles will be supplemented by readings on the basic probability and statistics concepts relating to the topic. We will use computer simulations and statistical packages to better illustrate the relevant theoretical concepts.


The class will differ from traditional math classes in organization as well as in content: The class meetings will emphasize group discussions, rather than the more traditional lecture format. Students will keep journals to record their thoughts and questions, along with their assignments. There will be a major final project in place of a final exam.

Scheduled meetings The class meets from 10:00 to 11:50 on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Room 102 Bradley Hall. Due to the interactive nature of the course, you will be expected to come to class, and engage whole-heartedly in the discussions. The X-hour Wednesday 3:00 to 3:50 will be used for discussion of material in the text, questions about homework, use of the computer, or anything else relating to the course.

Discussion groups We want to enable everyone to be engaged in discussions while at the same time preserving the unity of the course. From time to time, we will break into discussion groups of 3-6 people.

Every member of each group is expected to take part in the discussion and to make sure that everyone is involved: that everyone is being heard, everyone is listening, that the discussion is not dominated by one or two people, that everyone understands what is going on, and that the group sticks to the subject and really digs in.

After a suitable time, we will ask for reports to the entire class. These will not be formal reports. Rather, we will hold a summary discussion between the teachers and reporters from the individual groups.

Texts The required text for the course is Freedman, Pisani, Purves, and Adhikari, Statistics, 2nd edition and Data Desk by Velleman These are available at the Dartmouth Bookstore.

Journals Each participant should keep a journal for the course. While assignments given at class meetings go in the journal, the journal is for much more: for independent questions, ideas, and projects. The journal is not for class notes, but for work outside of class. The style of the journal will vary from person to person. Some will find it useful to write short summaries of what went on in class. Any questions suggested by the class work should be in the journal. The questions can be either speculative questions or more technical questions. You may also want to write about the nature of the class meetings and group discussions: what works for you and what doesn't work, etc.

You are encouraged to cooperate with each other in working on anything in the course, but what you put in your journal should be you. If it is something that has emerged from work with other people, write down who you have worked with. Ideas that come from other people should be given proper attribution. If you have referred to sources other than the texts for the course, cite them.

Exposition is important. If you are presenting the answer to a question, explain what the question is. If you are giving an argument, explain what the point is before you launch into it. What you should aim for is something that could communicate to a friend or a colleague a coherent idea of what you have been thinking and doing in the course.

Your journal should be kept on loose leaf paper. Journals will be collected periodically to be read and commented on. If they are on loose leaf paper, you can hand in those parts which have not yet been read, and continue to work on further entries. Pages should be numbered consecutively and except when otherwise instructed, you should hand in only those pages which have not previously been read. Write your name on each page, and, in the upper right hand corner of the first page you hand in each time, list the pages you have handed in (e.g. [7,12] on page 7 will indicate that you have handed in 6 pages numbered seven to twelve).

Journals will be collected and read as follows:

Homework To supplement the discussion in class and assignments to be written about in your journals, we will assign readings from FPPA, together with accompanying homework. When you write the solutions to these homework problems, you should keep them separate from your journals.

Final project We will not have a final exam for the course, but in its place, you will undertake a major project. The major project may be a paper investigating more deeply some topic we touch on lightly in class, or a topic that might arise in one of your other classes. Alternatively, you could design and carry out your own study. Or you might choose to do a computer-based project. To give you some ideas, a list of possible projects will be circulated. However, you are also encouraged to come up with your own ideas for projects.

At the end of the course we will hold a CHANCE Fair where you will have a chance to present your project to the class as a whole, and to demonstrate your mastery of applied probability by playing various games of chance. This Carnival will be held at the time of the final examination assigned by the registrar.

Resources Materials related to the course will be kept on the public file server in a folder called Chance in the Math 5 folder. In particular this course description and the class assignments can be obtained there. In addition we will be regularly using the Chance gopher on the internet. To access gopher, bring over to your computer from the Math 5 Chance folder TurboGopher, TurboGopher Settings, and MacTCP. Put TurboGopher and MacTCP in your system folder. If you are using system 7 TurboGopher Settings should go in preferences folder and MacTCP in the control panel folder. To access the Chance database just just double-click on TurboGopher and select Chance data base.

Library Reserve Previous issues Chance magazine can be found on reserve in Kresge Library. Other materials that we will want to put on reserve will be in Baker Library.

Grades Your grade in the course will be determined by your work on journal and class discussion (30%), homework (30%), and final project (40%).

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