Math 493 - Fall 2017

Section Information

Section Time Location Instructor Office Hours (Cupples I, Room 17)
1 M-W-F 2:00PM - 3:00PM Hillman Hall 70 Renato Feres Tue-Thu 12:00PM - 2:00PM

Please include Math 493 in the subject line of any email message sent to me concerning this course. This will make it much less likely that I may accidentally delete your message. My e-mail address is


A First Course in Probability by Sheldon Ross. (The ninth edition is the most current, but the eighth edition will serve equally well. )

Grading Information

There will be two in-class midsemester exams, E1, E2, and a final, F. Times and locations are as follows:

Exam Date Location Time Solutions
E1 Friday, October 6 Hillman Hall 70 2:00PM-3:00PM Exam I - Solutions
E2 Friday, November 10 Hillman Hall 70 2:00PM-3:00PM Exam II - Solutions
F Monday, December 18 Check here on exam day. 3:30PM-5:30PM Final - Solutions

In addition to the exams there will be weekly homework assignments. There will likely be 9 assignments, of which 8 will count for the final grade and the least homework score will be dropped. Your final grade will be based on the three exams, E1, E2, F, and the total homework score (made out of the 8 best scores), W. These are scaled so as to have each a maximum value of 100 points. These five scores are combined according to the following formula:

S = 0.20*E1 + 0.20*E2 + 0.30*F + 0.30*W

The value of S will be translated into a letter grade of A, B, C, D, F (with plus and minus shadings) according to the following table:

Numerical Range Letter Grade
[85, 100] A
[70, 85) B
[60, 70) C
[50, 60) D
[0, 50) F

The policy for assigning pluses and minuses is roughly as follows: A+ is reserved for the very top scores, and is given sparingly. I expect that only a very small number of students will get an A+. The Bs and Cs will be divided roughly evenly into +, -, and unsigned grade, but the exact cut-off lines will not be decided until the very end of the course, after all the exam and homework grades are in. Please note: What I mean by saying that the Bs and Cs are divided roughly equally into +, -, and unsigned grades is that the number of students to fall into each group will be roughly equal. It does not mean that those ranges will be divided into intervals of roughly equal size. So, for example, if there is a disproportionate number of scores in the upper B range, the cut off value separating B and B+ may be higher than 80. The cut off between A- and A will be chosen to contain approximately the lower third of the students with total score S between 85 and 100.


Exam questions will be drawn from the list of suggested problems (third column of the course plan below), so make sure that you have solved those suggested problems prior to a test. They may not appear in a test with exactly the same wording or numerical values as in the book; it is often necessary to restate them in a form that is appropriate, given the limited exam time. For example, numerical values may be simplified and an exame problem may consist of a part of a listed problem.

Here are a few general items to keep in mind:

For the final exam you should bring your Washington University Photo ID to exams. Proctors will check student's IDs.

For all the exams, you may bring a 3" x 5" (index card) "cheat sheet." You may write on both sides and include any information, typed or handwritten.

It will be helpful to bring a basic scientific calculator to the exams. A simple calculator without graphing or other special features will be perfectly fine. I won't place any restrictions for the type of calculator you may bring to the in-class exams, but for the final exam you should not bring a graphing calculator. Generally speaking, you should be prepared to give exact number solutions to problems, rather than decimal approximations. For example, pi/e may be preferred to 1.558.

The Final Exam, but not the two mid-semester exams, will be multiple choice. (In a large class like this one, a computer graded exam will help me subit the final grades on time.)

Important: There is no make-up exam! If you have to miss an exam for a serious reason (illness, bereavement), a score for the missed exam will be assigned to you by statistical regression.

If you need to be away at an exam date because of a university sporting event or field trip, then you may arrange for your coach or professor to administer the exam. All excused absences must be granted by Blake Thornton.

Make sure to plan your travels around the exam dates. Those dates cannot be changed for reasons of traveling convenience.

Course plan

Your main course activities will consist of doing the weekly homework assignments and solving the suggested problems listed below in preparation for the exams. This list may be modified occasionally to better reflect what we do in class.

Week Sections Suggested Problems
Aug 28 - Sept 01

Homework 0 (Not for grade.)
2.1-2.5 Chapter 2: 9, 10, 14, 22, 23, 33
Sept 04 - Sept 08

Labor day - September 4
Homework 1: due 09/08
3.1-3.4 Chapter 3: 5, 8, 17, 22, 26, 33, 36, 49
Sept 11 - Sept 15

Homework 2: due 09/15
3.4-4.5 Chapter 4: 7, 14, 21, 25, 32, 37
Sept 18 - Sept 22

Homework 3: due 09/22
4.6-4.8 Chapter 4: 38, 46, 49, 52, 58, 60
Sept 25 - Sept 29

Homework 4: due 09/29
5.1-5.4 Chapter 5: 2, 4, 11, 14, 18, 20, 21, 23
Oct 02 - Oct 06

Exam I - October 6
5.4-5.6 Chapter 5: 27, 28, 31, 32, 33
Oct 09 - Oct 13

Homework 5: due 10/13
5.6-6.2 Chapter 6: 2, 7, 12, 17
Oct 18 - Oct 20

Fall break - October 16
6.2-6.4 Chapter 6: 19, 23, 27
Oct 23 - Oct 27

Homework 6: due 10/27
6.4-6.7 (excluding 6.6) Chapter 6: 42, 53, 56, 58
Oct 30 - Nov 03

7.1-7.4 Chapter 7: 3, 4, 6, 30
Nov 06 - Nov 10

Exam II - November 10
7.4-7.5 Chapter 7: 31, 33, 40, 45
Nov 13 - Nov 17

Homework 7: due 11/17
7.6-7.8 Chapter 7: 50, 51, 56, 64, 65, 68
Nov 20

Happy Thanksgiving! - November 22 and 24
8.1-8.3 Chapter 8: 4, 6, 7, 9, 11
Nov 27 - Dec 01

8.3-8.3 Chapter 8: 15, 20, 21, 23
Dec 04 - Dec 08

Homework 8: due 12/08
December 18

FINAL EXAM 3:30 - 5:30 PM


I expect that there will be a total of 9 homework assignments. The least homework score will be dropped, so the value of W (see "grade information" above) will be based on your best 8 assignments.

Homework problems will contain a mixture of textbook problems and problems requiring the use of the statistical computing program R. I will have much more to say about this in class.

Due to the size of the class, I and the course TAs need to devise efficient ways for grading assignments. More details will be given in class about our grading approach, but keep in mind this most important point: grading is very hard when the assignment is written in a messy and careless way. We expect assignments to be clean and arguments clear and succinct; we may take points for difficult to read solutions even if the answer is correct. If the answer consists of a number or a simple expression, make sure to highlight it in a way that makes it easy to spot. If the problem involves a proof, take care that the logic is sound and that you are not writing more (or less) than really needed. (This is never the case on a first draft! You should revise and clean up your work, whether it is math or most other kinds of formal writing.) If a problem requires the use of computer, we will typically not read the details of your code, but you should show it nevertheless.

You may type your assignments using a writing program that can correctly render math symbols, or simply write them by hand. Please do not type math (that is not part of R code) using simple text programs. For example, it may be tempting to write parts of the assignment using the R editor if other parts contain computer code, but that would make the math nearly unreadable. Make sure to clearly separate your code from the rest of the assignment, for example, by simply writing by hand everything that is not code. If a problem has a numerical answer, even though the number may show up in the R output, you should still write the answer down and highlight it separately from the R script. Most often the solution to a computer problem will be a graph or a numerical value.

If at any point you are not sure about what constitutes good and acceptable homework writing, keep in mind this most fundamental point: if you feel a concern for the persons who will have to read what you write, you'll naturally find out the best practices on your own.

Homework assignments will be submitted via Crowdmark. This is a system for on-line handling of papers that simplifies the effort of collecting, grading and returning your homework papers. I'll explain this in detail in class.

The solutions to all of the problems will be available online after each assignment deadline.

You are encouraged to collaborate on homework assignments.

Renato Feres
Cupples I, Room 17
(314) 935 - 6752 (office phone)

Department of Mathematics
Washington University
Campus Box 1146
Saint Louis
Missouri, 63130 USA.

Last Updated: August 25, 2017