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  • Cited by 2
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
May 2019
Print publication year:
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Book description

In a world where we are constantly being asked to make decisions based on incomplete information, facility with basic probability is an essential skill. This book provides a solid foundation in basic probability theory designed for intellectually curious readers and those new to the subject. Through its conversational tone and careful pacing of mathematical development, the book balances a charming style with informative discussion. This text will immerse the reader in a mathematical view of the world, giving them a glimpse into what attracts mathematicians to the subject in the first place. Rather than simply writing out and memorizing formulas, the reader will come out with an understanding of what those formulas mean, and how and when to use them. Readers will also encounter settings where probabilistic reasoning does not apply or where intuition can be misleading. This book establishes simple principles of counting collections and sequences of alternatives, and elaborates on these techniques to solve real world problems both inside and outside the casino. Pair this book with the HarvardX online course for great videos and interactive learning:


'Probability is a subject of fundamental importance that’s often taught as a dry slog through ball-filled urns. Fat Chance, a snappy and example-rich text, is the perfect antidote and a great choice for a general-audience math course.'

Jordan Ellenberg - University of Wisconsin-Madison

'Mathematics is a minority sport. Only very few understand, say, algebraic geometry or ergodic theory, and that’s perfectly OK. Yet, probability theory is different. We are surrounded by chance and uncertainty. You cannot be a fully-fledged, functioning twenty-first-century human, whether at work, as a consumer or as an active citizen, without understanding the basic rules that govern chance. This is a book explaining chance and probability to non-mathematicians: accessible, not expecting any prior knowledge - but, there being no free lunch, assuming basic intelligence and an open mind. A small price for great enlightenment.'

Arieh Iserles - University of Cambridge

'Fat Chance is a fun and friendly introduction to the big ideas of risk, probability, and uncertainty in our everyday lives and in the world around us. It's written by three of the greatest mathematicians - and teachers - anywhere on the planet. I loved it! And according to my calculations, there's a high probability you’ll love it too.'

Steven Strogatz - Cornell University, and author of Infinite Powers

'… Fat Chance is an enjoyable small introductory book that, without the pretension of serving as a reference textbook, will certainly help undergraduate students to approach the fascinating world of probability but will also be appreciated by whoever desires to learn the basics through self-education.'

Massimo Nespolo Source: Journal of Applied Crystallography

‘The book is an excellent text for anyone looking for a very enjoyable introduction to probability. It can be read on its own or used as a textbook for a math course for non-math majors.’

Thomas Hagedorn Source: MAA Reviews

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  • 1 - Simple counting
    pp 3-10


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