Applications of probability
This module introduces models to describe patterns of events that occur in time (such as earthquakes), and in space (for instance, the occurrence of a species of plant). Situations that occur only at discrete time points, including the ruin of a gambler, are studied. Probability models are developed for those situations, such as the spread of an epidemic, in which events may occur at any time. The module ends with other situations involving probability including genetics and changes in stockmarket prices. You are expected to be reasonably competent in calculus and algebra.
What you will study
This module in probability and its applications emphasises probability modelling and developing the properties of the models. A considerable amount of mathematics is sometimes required for this development, but we do not always give formal proofs, particularly if the proof does not illuminate the probabilistic ideas.
The module consists of six books.
The first one, which is introductory, revises and develops ideas about probability and introduces some techniques that will be used frequently in the module.
The second book develops models for events occurring in time, including the Poisson process and several extensions of it, and patterns in space, including models for random scatter and clustering of objects.
The third book develops models for processes in which events can occur only at discrete time points, such as a Bernoulli process. This includes practical situations such as the ruin of a gambler and the extinction of a family surname.
In the fourth book, probability models are developed for situations in which events can occur at any time. Examples include queues, the spread of epidemics, and the change in the size of a population due to births and deaths.
In the fifth book, models are developed for various situations, including genetics, the renewal of components, and the change in stock market prices.
Computer simulations are used to illustrate some of the phenomena studied, and associated activities are included in a separate book.
You will learn
Successful study of this module should enhance your skills in understanding mathematical arguments, expressing problems in mathematical language, finding solutions to problems and interpreting mathematical results in real-world terms.
This module may help you to gain membership of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA). For further information, see the IMA website.
This module may also help you to apply for the professional award of Graduate Statistician conferred by The Royal Statistical Society (RSS).
You need no pre-requisites to study Applications of probability. However, we recommend that you are familiar with the following mathematical topics:
- differential equations
We recommend you also have previous basic knowledge of probability; we’ll include some revision of the following topics:
- probability functions
- probability density functions
- the binomial, Poisson, geometric, exponential and normal distributions
- the Poisson process
Check you’re ready to study Applications of probability with our self-assessed quiz.
Talk to an advisor if you’re still not sure if you’re ready.
Essential mathematics 1 (MST124) and Essential mathematics 2 (MST125) are ideal preparation to reach the mathematical competence level we recommend for studying Applications of probability. However, we recommend also completing one of our OU level 2 mathematics modules.
Analysing data (M248) teaches the probability knowledge we recommend you to have before starting Applications of probability. The first book of Applications of probability includes a thorough revision of this knowledge, so we recommend you study it early if you haven’t completed Analysing data.
Books, web-based software, website.
You will need
Calculator with the usual mathematical functions (exp, log, sin, cos), but not necessarily with statistical functions.
A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.
Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.
A desktop or laptop computer with either:
- Windows 7 or higher
- macOS 10.7 or higher
The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.
To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones.
Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.