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.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code M343
Credits 30
OU Level 3
SCQF level 10
FHEQ level 6
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
4 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
Examination
No residential school

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.

Entry

You need no pre-requisites to study Applications of probability. However, we recommend that you are familiar with the following mathematical topics:

  • calculus
  • algebra
  • differential equations
  • matrices

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.

Preparatory work

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.

If you have a disability or additional requirement

This module may be very challenging if you have severely impaired sight. Almost all the texts contain detailed diagrams and there are a few data tables.

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components (such as equations) may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way.

Study materials

What's included

Books, web-based software, website.

You will need

Calculator with the usual mathematical functions (exp, log, sin, cos), but not necessarily with statistical functions.

Computing requirements

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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above. Although your scores on the TMAs and iCMAs will not contribute directly to your final grade, you will need to successfully complete at least 2 of the 3 TMAs and 3 of the 4 iCMAs. You will be given more information when you begin the module.

You can choose whether to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) on paper or online through the eTMA system. You may want to use the eTMA system for some of your assignments but submit on paper for others. This is entirely your choice.

Future availability

Applications of probability starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2018. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2022.

This course is expected to start for the last time in October 2022.

Professional recognition

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).