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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unacceptable Errors
I am revising my review of this book due to the seriousness of one particular error.

On page 126, the author, Deborah Rumsey, addresses "The Famous Birthday Problem." Basically, the problem asks, "Given n people in a group, what is the probability of at least two of them sharing a birthday?"

This problem and its correct solution are well known and...
Published on November 19, 2009 by Robert E. Welcyng

versus
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but really for dummies!
I mostly enjoyed this book, and I now feel more comfortable with certain concepts that I had always tended to ignore. Gone are the days when, upon hearing the slightest complex-sounding word on probabilities, I would automatically revert to the ostrich technique. This book definitely helps you face such little words in probabilities and statistics, and it truly gives you...
Published on March 11, 2008 by Yannis


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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unacceptable Errors, November 19, 2009
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This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
I am revising my review of this book due to the seriousness of one particular error.

On page 126, the author, Deborah Rumsey, addresses "The Famous Birthday Problem." Basically, the problem asks, "Given n people in a group, what is the probability of at least two of them sharing a birthday?"

This problem and its correct solution are well known and can be found in numerous authoritative texts such as William Feller's "Probability Theory and Its Applications" and on the Internet as well.

At first blush, Rumsey's different from the traditional approach to this problem seemed clever to me. However, upon closer examination, her method turns out to be flawed.

For example, if there were four people in the group, the correct calculation for the probability that at least two of the four people share a birthday is:

1 - (365/365)(364/365)(363/365)(362/365)

According to Rumsey's method, however, the corresponding probability would be:

1 - (364/365)(364/365)(364/365)(364/365)(364/365)(364/365)

Rumsey's "solution" is not mathematically equivalent to the first (correct) solution, although, fortuitously, the calculated results are nearly the same (0.0163559 versus 0.0163262). This difference reveals a subtle error in the logic of Rumsey's approach to the problem.

I'm rating this book with a single star because I feel that an error of logic in a book that purports to teach probability is not acceptable. I enjoyed reading Probability For Dummies, but I am disappointed that an otherwise well written, entertaining, and useful book has been stained by a fundamental error in reasoning.

Other errors in the book are:

On page 9, both the definition and example of the term "odds" are incorrect. "Odds" is not the ratio of the denominator to the numerator of a probability, but rather the ratio of the probability of success for a given event to the probability of failure of that event. If the probability of a horse winning a race is 50%, the odds of the horse winning is 1 to 1, not 2 to 1 as the book states.

On page 169, the formula that defines the normal distribution is incorrect. The denominator of the exponent should be "twice sigma", not "sigma".

On page 170, the formula that defines the Z distribution is incorrect. The exponent "minus Z squared" should be "minus Z squared divided by two".
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but really for dummies!, March 11, 2008
This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
I mostly enjoyed this book, and I now feel more comfortable with certain concepts that I had always tended to ignore. Gone are the days when, upon hearing the slightest complex-sounding word on probabilities, I would automatically revert to the ostrich technique. This book definitely helps you face such little words in probabilities and statistics, and it truly gives you confidence in doing so.

Yet, important as the above may be if you do not intend to use a lot of probs theory, that's about all this book does for you... Evidently, that's just not enough for someone you wants to start using probabilities. And my intuition is that, if you want to read a book on probabilities, that's because you want to use them.

Plainly, this book is a little bit too easy. I do not consider myself to be anything like beyond the mean of a normal distribution of IQ scores. And yet I constantly thought that I needed a more of two things, and less of another.
1) I needed more exercises: if one buys this, it is probably because one wants to start using probs, and exercises are the best way to start learning; and
2) I needed more text on applications: if one buys this, it is probably because they want to see how props are used in real-world and/or academic contexts.
3) Conversely, I thought I needed a little bit less of repetition: every chapter need not read as a self-standing piece, which recaps everything and then adds just a tiny little bit more. People tend to read books from the beginning to the end; they do not just open this king of books at a random page and start reading... In my experience, repetition reaches a point where it starts having decreasing returns: instead of consolidating knowledge, it confuses (he or she starts wondering what is new about the new page or chapter) and bores the reader.

So, do buy this book if you're revising for exams, or if you really know nothing about probabilties. But if you either care to really learn about probabilities, or you already know a little bit about them, then try another book that can get you further (lots of books on finite maths take you further than this one in just one chapter...).
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little skeptical, February 7, 2008
This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
I was a little disappointed to see a mistake in the introduction, under discussion of odds. The claim made was that if a horse had a 50% chance of winning, the odds were 2 to 1. In fact the odds are 2 FOR 1 or 1 to 1. If a horse has a .50 probability of winning, it stands that it also has a .50 probability of losing. 0.50 = 0.50 therefore 1 TO 1. In a gambling setting, if someone paid you 2 to 1 odds on a .50 probablility event, they would go broke quickly. If they paid you 2 FOR 1 everyone would break even in the long run.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critique, November 2, 2006
This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
This book is an excellent introduction to the field of probability. It does not go into higher level mathematical theory, but presents the subject in easy to understand language and sticks to areas of practical application.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 4 for coverage, 2 for accuracy, February 16, 2010
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This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
Overall, this is a good book that serves well as a very thorough introduction to probabilities and statistical distributions. The author covers a very large domain that is probably equivalent to at least one semester course at the college level. I was surprised at the number and complexity of statistical distributions covered and at the depth of the combination and permutation topics applications.

This book should fulfill the knowledge needs of most people needing such an introduction to probabilities. The author provides all the formulas and tools needed to deal with not only basic but also fairly advanced stuff (with statistical distributions the learning curve accelerates into the advanced domain readily).

As mentioned in the title of this review, the author is not as accurate as she should have been. Some errors are permissible. Other errors are less so. Among the permissible errors are the author's treatment of the famous birthday problems. I won't bore you with the technicalities others have already well specified. In any case, the author comes up with an elegant estimate of a solution to the birthday problem. But, it is not 100% accurate. The only error the author did here is to forget to mention this was an estimation and not an accurate solution. There are many well accepted estimations to the birthday problem and the author's is as reasonably accurate as any others (I have partly checked that).

Among the errors that are less permissible, right at the beginning of the book the author completely messes up what odds are. She states that odds is the inverse of a probability. It is not. The odds is either the probability of winning divided by the probability of losing (called Odds on) or the reverse (Odds against). Later in the book, she also bungles the Z distribution probability density function. Those are material errors that discredit the author.

So, there you have it. This is a good book overall, but watch out for some errors. If you study statistical distributions in depth I would double check every pmf or pdf formulas with another source such as Wikipedia.

If you want to build your mathematical foundation I also strongly recommend Forgotten Algebra, Forgotten Calculus, and Forgotten Statistics: A Refresher Course with Applications to Economics and Business. Those books were somewhat more accessible than this one (shorter on theory, more exercises, and superior in quality).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction for the subject of Probability, May 28, 2008
This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
"Probability for Dummies" is an excellent book for students who are new to the subject of probability. It is easy to read, witty and very informative. This book would also serve as a fine review for students with previous experience in probability and statistics as well, for it deals with subject matter relative to both (in fact, the author makes references to another of her books, "Statistics for Dummies"). Highly recommended!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding especially for students with rusty probability skills!, June 21, 2009
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This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
I am taking a grad school class dealing with lots of Probability Distribution Models and concepts - and it has been a few years - okay a few DECADES since I first was exposed to these concepts. My prof was busy racing through lecture slides at the "Kleinrock" level of probability detail, and my eyes were glazed over and I was lost. Probability for Dummies has quickly allowed me to catch up with my prof, and now feel confident again about the concepts my prof assumed I knew with perfect recall from long, long ago. If you need consise and well written explanations of probability concepts such as pdfs, cdfs, probability distribution models, the Central Limit Theorem, etc. this book is a great help. This book is extremely 'student friendly' in that the author offers many coaching tips and comments for students from her wealth of experience as a teacher of Probability classes. Excellent book for for those looking for a quick refresher of Probability concepts!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For a brush-up on that learned so long ago, or as a friendly comprehendible introduction, May 22, 2009
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This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
This book is well-written, and provides very easily understandable examples for all topics discussed. As an introductory book, you will not be disappointed. The author presents the topics in a clear and concise manner, and importantly, doesn't explain concepts entirely with mathematical formulas (something I have noticed is quite common for graduate level probability and statistics textbooks).

I highly recommend this book for those beginning to grasp the concept of probability and statistics. Or, like me, someone who needed a little brush-up on this very useful subject matter.
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4.0 out of 5 stars very good, but...., March 20, 2014
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NoDumbName (Hoboken, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
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I agree with the other reviews about the errors in the book. Also, the book does not provide any exercises, and without practice it is very difficult, if not impossible, to concur math.

Nevertheless, the book is very well written, and the examples provided are clear and easy to understand. The author clearly put some effort into making the subject matter interesting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Review of probatility for dummies, May 25, 2013
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This review is from: Probability For Dummies (Paperback)
Very user friendly and comfortable to read. The book is giving me a clear understanding of probability which I always had trouble with and will need to pass for my undergraduate bachelor's degree program.
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Probability For Dummies
Probability For Dummies by Deborah J. Rumsey (Paperback - April 3, 2006)
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