MATH 461, Sections B13/C13, Spring 2009
Introduction to Probability
Professor A.J. Hildebrand
- Section B13: MWF 9:00 - 9:50,
- Section C13: MWF 10:00 - 10:50,
347 Altgeld (note room change!)
- Instructor: A.J. Hildebrand
- Instructor contact: Office 241 Illini Hall, phone
244-7721, email firstname.lastname@example.org. I check my email frequently, and you'll
usually get an answer within hours (and sometimes minutes).
When sending email, include the string "Math 461" in the
subject line. This will ensure that the message gets prompt attention
and doesn't get filed away as spam.
- Office hours:
For quick questions, just get a hold of me after class. My official
office hours are tentatively set for MWF 11:30 pm - 12:00 pm, but I
intend the weekly "Open House" (see below) to be primary point of
- Open House:
I will hold a weekly "Open House", scheduled for
Wednesdays, 5 pm - 6 pm (longer if necessary), in
141 Altgeld, beginning with the second week of class. The Open
House is intended as an informal office hour for students in this class;
take advantage of this opportunity!
- Text and syllabus:
Sheldon Ross, "A First Course in Probability", 7th edition,
We will cover most of Chapters 1 - 7 and the first three sections of
official departmental syllabus can be found under this link.
I plan to follow this syllabus fairly closely, but not slavishly, and I
may deviate from it slightly on occasion.
Alternate sources for the text.
The bookstore price for the text is around $120 new, and $90 used,
However, you can find better deals at online outlets such as
or the local, student-run,
Illini Book Exchange.
Note: You will need the 7th edition of Ross, with the above ISBN,
to get the correct exercises. While much of this edition is identical to
the previous (6th) edition, exercise numbers have been shifted, and new
exercises have been added. You could probably get by with the 6th
edition, provided you also have access to the 7th edition (e.g.,
through a friend, or by using the copy that is on reserve in the Altgeld
Hall Library), and you use that edition to get the homework problems.
About this and related courses: Math 461
is our basic undergraduate
probability course. It is aimed primarily at Math majors and students
in Engineering and Computer Science.
(Students in ECE have their own probability course, ECE 313, and
they must take this course.)
A related course is Math 463 (= Stat 400).
Most Math majors can choose between 461 and 463.
While 461 focuses almost exclusively on probability,
463 covers both probability and statistics, though in less depth than 461.
Most students find 463 easier than 461; if you are struggling with 461,
you might consider switching to 463, assuming you have a choice between the
Another related course is
Math 408 (= Stat 408). 408 is an introductory probability
course much like 461, but
targeted specifically at actuarial science
students. Enrollment is restricted to students in the actuarial science
program. 408 covers much of the same material as 461, but it takes its
problems and examples come from actuarial science applications. One major
goal of 408 is to prepare actuarial science students for the Course P/1
Mathematica version of Math 461: One of the five sections
(G83/84) in which 461 is offered is a Mathematica version. This version
is completely different from the traditional versions (Sections B13,
C13, D13, M13). I have no personal experience with the
Mathematica-based 461, but you can find more information under this link, and by talking
to the folks in the Mathematica Lab in 239 Altgeld. You have to see for
yourself if this is a style that appeals to you. Some students who
struggle with traditional classes strive in Mathematica-based classes;
for others the opposite holds. One advantage of the Mathematica version
is that it can be taken online, e.g., over the summer.
- Homework assignments:
There will be weekly HW assignments, normally given out on
Monday and due in class the following Friday.
Assignments dropped off in mailboxes will not be accepted; however, you
can turn in an assignment in person in my office, 241 Illini Hall, any
time before the class hour in which it is due.
At the end of the semester, the lowest HW score will be dropped.
Missed/late assignments: Late assignments will not be accepted.
However, if you have a legitimate excuse for missing an assignment
(e.g., illness), documented by a Dean's letter,
I will mark the assignment as excused (see the section
"Missed homework policy" below).
Group work policy:
Group work on the homework problems is fine and, indeed,
encouraged, provided you write up solutions yourself, using your own words.
Group work should not be a one-sided affair, and it also should not be
a division of labor, with everybody doing only a subset of the
problems and passing out solutions to the rest of the group.
Everybody should contribute, and the goal should be for
everybody in the group to end up understanding all of the
- Midterm exams: There will be three
evening midterm exams. The dates, which were decided at the beginning of
the semester after polling the class to minimize or eliminate possible
conflicts, are the following:
February 19, March 19, April 30.
The exams will be held 7 pm - 8 pm
in 1404 Siebel Center on each of these dates. Conflict exams will
only be given in exceptional cases, with a valid excuse, and after
exhausting other options. (E.g., if the conflict is due to another
evening exam at the same time, use the other class' conflict slot.)
All conflict requests must be made in writing (email to
email@example.com) at least one week in advance of the exam, and must include
details on the conflict event, e.g., course number, start and end times,
- Final Exam: The Final Exam will be cumulative and will be
about 2 - 2.5 times as long as a midterm. The Final will
be given at the University-assigned Final Exam slots for
classes meeting MWF 9 am, resp. MWF 10 am, which are as follows. (See
Spring 2009 Final Exam schedule.)
Note: University rules require that you take the Final Exam at the
assigned slot for the class, unless you are in a ``three
consecutive finals'' situation (in which case you are entitled to a
conflict exam by one of the classes involved).
In particular, you cannot take the final at
a different date/time (e.g., at the May 11 slot instead of the May 14
slot if you are in the 9 am section) simply to accommodate travel plans.
Please keep the above Final dates in mind when making your travel
- Sections B13 (9 - 9:50 am):
Thursday, May 14, 8 am - 11 am
- Sections C13 (10 - 10:50 am):
Monday, May 11, 8 am - 11 am
- Course grade:
The course grade will be based on homework, midterm exams, and the
final exam, weighted approximately as follows:
- Homework: 1/6
- Midterm Exams: 1/6 each (1/2 for all three midterms)
- Final Exam: 1/3
- Missed exam policy:
I do not give make-up exams. If you miss an exam and have a
valid excuse (e.g., illness, out-of-town job interview),
documented by a Dean's letter,
I will mark the exam as excused; the exam will then not
be taken into account when computing the overall exam average.
An "excused" grade must be requested within a week of the test and
must be documented with a letter from the Dean.
The Dean's Office is
located in 300 Student Services Building, 610 East John St., phone
333-0050; see also the
Just see one of the Assistant Deans there, explain your
case, and ask that they send a letter to the instructor. The Deans
deal with these situations all the time and have form letters
that they will send to instructors if they believe you have a valid
excuse (e.g., illness, but not, for example, oversleeping). One major
advantage of going through the Dean's Office is that you can take care
of any other missed classes at the same time by having letters sent to
all of your instructors.
Missed homework policy:
Since the lowest homework score will be
dropped, you can afford to miss one homework and still get a perfect
homework average. If you cannot turn in an assignment due to illness or
some other valid excuse, the same policy as for missed exams applies:
With a Dean's letter as documentation, I will mark the assignment as
excused; that is, it will not count towards the homework average (and
you will still have the drop score).
Section 1-501 of the University of Illinois
"regular class attendance is expected of all students
at the University." This applies to this class as well.
While I will not check attendance, if you miss class, you do so at your
own risk and you are responsible for catching up on any missed material.
I take lecturing seriously, and I put considerable thought and effort
into preparing the lectures. I will (usually) follow the outline of the
text, but instead of simply reading straight the text, I try to put my
own spin on the material, choosing different examples to illustrate
concepts, and emphasizing general ideas and the "big picture".
The lectures and the text are meant to complement, rather than
duplicate, each other, and reading the text is no substitute for
attending the lectures.
I maintain an extensive course website, at
http://www.math.uiuc.edu/~hildebr/461. You will find there
announcements, HW assignments and solutions, handouts, a
daily class log, and more. Make sure to bookmark this page and check
it on a regular basis. Keep in mind, though, that this is not an online
course and the website is not intended as a substitute for attending
class; there is a lot more that goes on in class than the
brief summaries of topics/sections that you'll find on the
website can convey.
Back to the Course Homepage
Last modified Tue 19 Jan 2010 10:51:01 AM CST