Probability

Conditional Probability and Multiple Choice

(A new question of the week) A recent question about probability has ties to Venn diagrams, tables, and Bayes’ Theorem. Questions about answering multiple-choice questions are common; this one offers a twist that provided opportunity to discuss several important concepts. Here is the initial question, from August: On a multiple choice question, only one answer is …

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Rolling a 6 on Three Dice

(An archive question of the week) One of the discussions we looked at last time involved rolling three dice and getting at least one six. I didn’t go into detail on the calculation there; but I found another place where we discussed it at length. We’ll look at that here. A wrong way and a …

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The Gambler’s Fallacy

Probability seems simple enough to many people that it can fool them into wrong conclusions. We have had many questions that involve the “Gambler’s Fallacy”, both from people who naively assume it without thinking, and from some who defend it using technical ideas like the Law of Large Numbers. The Gambler’s Fallacy Here is a …

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Should Rare Events Surprise Us?

(Archive Question of the Week) We often receive questions saying something like, “My wife has the same birthday as my son-in-law, whose dog has the same name as my wife’s brother, … ,” and asking us to calculate how likely it is that this would happen. Sometimes it is simply impossible to answer (without, say, looking up …

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