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150 of 154 people found the following review helpful
If Mosteller hadn't included the solutions, this would have been a short book indeed -- 56 problems simply stated in 14 pages. You'll soon find, however, that some problems, which are the shortest to set up, take a great deal of brainpower. It starts innocently enough - some simple-sounding problems on socks in drawers, flipping coins, and rolling dice. Soon enough, you end up with paper black with numbers and pictures of a flipping coin (how thick does a coin need to be so that it lands on its =side= with probability 1/3?) If you get drawn in deep (as I did), you may even wonder what probability really means.
Some of the problems are classic, such as the problem of how many people would it take for the probability that at least two of them have the same birthday is greater than a half (I'll give this answer away: 23. But do you know why?) One of the dice problems actually recalls the history of the development of probability as a separate mathematical field -- problem #19, involving dice bets that Samuel Pepys asked Isaac Newton to figure out. Some of the problems are simply openers for entire vistas in probability - avoid problems #51 and #52 if you wish to not become enmeshed in concerns of random walks (remember that one of Einstein's earliest papers was on Brownian motion - a molecular random walk.) I used problem #25, which deal with "random chords on a circle", to explore this classic probability paradox - I've ended up with three different figures, all of which seem plausible! It gets deep to what one means by "random chord".
This book, though so thin, is inexhaustible in spawning disturbing questions about probability; even more useful is that there are questions for people at =any= level of knowledge of probability. Those who wish to think about "counting" problems (like those involving rolling dice, or pulling balls out of urns) will find those here. Those who have an interest in continuous probability will find problems which will interest them. And those old probability pros who ponder the essence of chance will find meat for some productive chewing.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2002
Working through the colorful problems in this book is a great way to (re)learn and apply basic probability principles. There is a great deal of independence between problem so you are never quite sure how tough or easy the next one will be. On the other hand, several of the problems are clearly follow-ons that allow the exploration or expansion of some of the more interesting issues.
Though I've worked through the problems a couple of times, I bought a replacement copy when my original was "permanently borrowed" from my desk at work.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2000
Excellent selection of problems and very explanatory and detailed solutions. This gets to the ideas behind many of the popular methods in probability, like maximum likelihood. The concepts are given centerstage and provide insights on "how to think" about many problems in probability.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2000
There are other books on problems in probablity. However, this book has problems that are interesting (often counterintuitive). They are well written as are the solutions. Much of the book is at the pre-calculus level but the problems are not trivial; neither are they arcane. Many teachers use this book as a source of problems. It is great for all students of probability.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
This collection of fifty-six classic problems in probability is a first-rate work. All of the solutions are well written and easily followed. The reasoning is general enough to allow you to go on and solve related problems. Examples are birthday matching, trials until success, cooperation, gambler's ruin, and Buffon's needle.
If you have a soft spot for problems in probability, this book is an inexpensive must.
Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 31, 2001
The problems range from easy to incredibly hard. They are chosen to illustrate points or techniques. Many also have a touch of humour. You will learn a lot from this book. Few theorems are mentioned! Fun, cheap, instructive, amusing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 10, 2001
Even if you are not a big probability fan, you are more than likely to find something enjoyable in this book. Some of the problems are wasy, some are hard, and some are just strange, but it makes for a very entertaining diversion for the mathematically inclined.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2011
I enjoy solving probability puzzles. I considered myself to be pretty good- I could solve any problem that the GRE practice exams could throw my way. Until I opened this book.

This book takes off where I ended up. The first problem is a variation on the "reach into a bag" probability problem. (Q: You reach into a drawer with red socks and black socks, and the probability of drawing 2 red socks is P=0.5. What is the minimum number of both colored socks?)

You won't find the typical probability problems that can be quickly solved with basic combinatorial analysis or the Bernoulli Coefficient. You'll find variations and completely new worlds of probability. The explanations are thorough but succinct, and will arm you with a new skill set for solving such problems.

There's no other book like it on Amazon, and for $7...

Comparable to Huff's "How to Lie with Statistics" in its originality and straight-forwardness.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2011
I got this book because I enjoy programming challenges, probability and logical reasoning and wanted to strengthen my math skills. With that said, I struggled right out of the gate with the problems. I understood the problems and was able to solve them on my own but when reading the solution and trying to follow through with the mathematical approach I found myself completely confused. The math isn't always intuitive and the author makes a few leaps during his explanations that not only could I not follow, but I couldn't recreate in my own math. This was frustrating to no end and I still don't understand a lot of the math he used to get to his solutions. It's a great book if you like challenges and probability and those who have a stronger math background than myself might enjoy this book a lot. However, for me this book just didn't quite make the cut and I'd really enjoy one with a better set of answers and explanations to go with.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 12, 2008
I don't know what to say. The problems here are really interesting. The problems range from very easy ones to very difficult ones. There are problems on variety of prob topics including continuous prob. Some of the problems are very hard to the point you want to pull your hair out. However, it is definitly the best problems I have seen.
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