How Risks Add Up

(A new question of the week) Real life questions of probability often require information that we don’t have – they become a job for statistics instead. But sometimes just trying some plausible numbers, as in a Fermi problem, can yield interesting results. Here we consider the probability of an injury when kids play near a …

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Probability: Cards vs Dice

(A new question of the week) A couple recent questions involved related subtleties in probability and combinatorics. Both were about apparent conflicts between similar problems involving cards and dice.

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.