Combinatorics and Probability

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  • Basic Counting
    • Counting is one of the basic mathematically related tasks we encounter on a day to day basis. The main question here is the following: can we count the number of objects without listing all of them? This question arises naturally in various scenarios both in real life and in Computer Science. What is the number of different phone numbers or license plates? What is the number of different combinations one needs to brute force in order to crack a password? Is there a way to tell that an algorithm will run in a reasonable time before implementing and actually running it? All these questions are addressed by a mathematical field called combinatorics. In this module, we consider the basic building blocks of combinatorics. All of them are easy to understand and at the same time are powerful enough to handle various non-trivial questions. To help you to develop an intuition, we consider short Python code snippets for generating the objects to be counted.
  • Binomial Coefficients
    • In how many ways one can select a team of five students out of ten students? What is the number of non-negative integers with at most five digits whose digits are decreasing? In how many ways one can get from the bottom left cell to the top right cell of a 5x5 grid, each time going either up or to the right? And why all these three numbers are equal? We'll figure this out in this module!
  • Advanced Counting
    • We have already considered most of the most standard settings in Combinatorics, that allow us to address many counting problems. However, successful application of this knowledge on practice requires considerable experience in this kind of problems. In this module we will address the final standard setting in our course, combinations with repetitions, and then we will gain some experience by discussing various problems in Combinatorics.
  • Probability
    • The word "probability" is used quite often in the everyday life. However, not always we can speak about probability as some number: for that a mathematical model is needed. What is this mathematical model (probability space)? How to compute probabilities (if the model is given)? How to judge whether the model is adequate? What is conditional probability and Bayes' theorem? How our plausible reasoning can be interpreted in terms of Bayes' theorem? In this module we cover these questions using some simple examples of probability spaces and real life sutiations.
  • Random Variables
    • In the previous module we discussed how to compute probabilities of random events. But in many practical situation we are interested not only in positive or negative outcome, but also in some quantitative characteristics of an outcome. Among these cases are number of steps of an algorithms, number of points that one can win in the games involving any kind of randomness, all quantitative characteristics of a random person in some group of people. Basically settings of this kind arise in all situations when (a) any kind of uncertainty is presented (b) we are interested in quantitative characteristics. The mathematical model for this is called random variables. And we will discuss them in this module.
  • Project: Dice Games
    • In this module, we will apply accumulated knowledge to create a project solving a certain dice game. The game is very simple: two players pick a dice each from a given pool of dices with various numbers on their sides. Then each player throws his dice and the one with the greater number on his dice wins. The game looks very simple and it seems that it is very easy to play this game optimally once we know our pool of dices. Yet it turns out that this intuition is overwhelmingly wrong: the game turns out to be very counterintuitive. In this module we will discuss the game in detail and create a program that finds an optimal strategy to play the game on a given pool of dices.

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