Probability

A Random Walk on a Graph

(A new question of the week) It seems that most of the interesting questions recently have been about relatively advanced topics, though commonly in introductory classes. Here, we’ll help a student think through a problem introducing the idea of a random walk on a graph. (“Graph” here doesn’t mean the graph of an equation, which …

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How Many Paths from A to B?

A popular kind of question in combinatorics is to count the number of paths between two points in a grid (following simple constraints). This can be done by very different methods at different levels. We’ll look at several problems of this type, starting with the simplest.

Fractions and Felonies

(A new question of the week) A recent question involved a word problem about fractions, which will fit in nicely with the current series on fractions. We’ll explore several ways to solve a rather tricky fraction word problem, some avoiding fractions as much as possible, some focusing on the meaning of the fractions, and others …

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Interpreting Probability Questions

(A new question of the week) A couple recent questions centered around how to interpret probability problems, whose wording can often be subtle, and whose solutions require care.

Polygons and Handshakes

We’ll spend the next couple weeks looking at various counting problems. This topic, called combinatorics, is often studied along with probability, but many of the topics we’ll see here feel more like geometry problems! Here, we’ll be counting the diagonals of a polygon, and handshakes between people at a party. Counting diagonals We’ll start with …

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Bayes and Virus Testing

News about testing for viruses has reminded me of a couple problems that I linked to some time ago, but never dealt with directly. The question is, given data such as the result of a (fallible) blood or swab test, how sure can we be of the results? The answer is sometimes surprising. False positives …

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