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Courses Taking continuous probability over discrete probability?

  1. Mar 14, 2017 #1
    I'm considering taking the upper-level probability course at my school over the elementary course offered because of time constraints. The latter is not a prerequisite for the former. Do you think I will be alright taking the more advanced probability course over the elementary course? Any input offered will be much appreciated. Thank you.

    MATH 371 Elementary Probability Theory (3) Sets, discrete sample spaces, problems in combinatorial probability, random variables, mathematical expectations, classical distributions, applications. Pre: [Calculus II]

    MATH 471 Probability (3) Probability spaces, random variables, distributions, expectations, moment-generating and characteristic functions, limit theorems. Continuous probability emphasized. Pre: [Calculus IV]

    Here are the courses. I've already taken Calculus IV, so I can just skip to 471.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2017 #2
    Most of the concepts in MATH 371 are baked into MATH 471 because continuous probability theory is built up in a similar way to discrete prob theory. However, if you just took 471, some of the stuff you'd miss out on learning include important probability distributions and combinatorics, which is by the way very important in statistical physics, computer science etc.

    That said, I'd put priority on taking both 371 and 471. If you want to do 471, you'll have to learn most of what's in 371 anyway, so might as well do it properly and take both courses. Also, understanding statistics and probability theory is extremely useful for physicists/engineers.
  4. Mar 15, 2017 #3


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    My suggestion would be to speak to the instructors for both courses if possible (or the chair of the math department) and get their assessment of which sequence of probability courses are worth taking before taking any action.

    That being said, from the limited description above, it does seem like MATH 471 would include most of the concepts taught in MATH 371. So you might be OK with taking just MATH 471, but taking both may be a better idea.
  5. Mar 15, 2017 #4


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    Hey Eclair_de_XII

    For undergraduate courses, most of the concepts are redundant between the two categories of distributions.

    For graduate coursework, you learn how to deal with both when you look at measure theory and probability.

    You should know this if you want to choose one course over another - and the main difference for undergraduate courses is that you will see Sigma's instead of integrals and different probability transform/generation functions for the discrete and continuous cases.
  6. Mar 16, 2017 #5
    Thank you, everyone. I ended up deciding to take 371 and its supplementary course first, and then 471 and that supplementary course one year later. I'm kind of worried that I might forget my Calculus IV by then...
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