Math 561: Theory of Probability, I

Material: This is the first course in the graduate sequence in probability theory. The course aims to explain the tools and language of modern probability theory. We start with random variables, distributions, expectations, variances, independence and convergence of random variables. Then we cover: Thus the course equips you to understand the probabilistic thinking that is by now pervasive in both pure and applied mathematics, including financial mathematics.

Text: Probability: Theory and Examples, 3rd Edition (2004), by Richard Durrett. We cover most of Chapters 1-5.
Two other other useful texts are on reserve at the Mathematics Library:
S. Ross, A First Course in Probability, 6th edition, covering undergraduate probability with no measure theory
P. Billingsley, Probability and Measure, 3rd edition

Prerequisites: Math 540 (measure theory) or consent of the instructor.

Homework Due every week or two, to my office 40%
Test Information and Solutions Friday 10 March, in class 20%
Exam Information Wednesday 10 May, 1:30-4:30pm 40%
Homework median scores: 3.5/4, 5.5/6, 6/6, 8/8, 4.3/5, 5/5, 6/6.5

I encourage students to work together on the homework. But you must write up your own solutions in your own words, so that you really learn the material before the tests. Please write on the first page of your homework the names of all people with whom you discussed it (this is an ethical matter: "give credit where credit is due").

The test and exam are closed book (you may not use any written or printed materials, or any electronic devices).

Make up tests or exams will be given only if you present written evidence, as soon as possible, that you did (or will have to) miss an exam for a legitimate reason, e.g. illness or family emergency. Travel and leisure plans are never a legitimate reason. Late homework accepted only if you get an extension from me.

There is no formula fixed in advance for turning your numerical score into a letter grade. But after the test, I will indicate approximate grade ranges so that you have some idea of how you are doing.

IPROM Software. We might spend a day having fun with the free probabilistic simulation software package Iprom, which runs under Matlab. Mathemtics students can run Matlab on the Mathematics department unix system, and engineering students can install Iprom on their EWS account at (The download page also gives a link for buying Matlab at the student price, if desired.)

How to Succeed: Always re-work your lecture notes before the next class, checking every step and filling in missing details. Read the text as you re-work your notes - we cover only the most essential points in class. Before each class, ask me about the points you didn't follow in the last class!
Go over your HW solutions the day you get them back.



Please e-mail me at - Richard Laugesen