Fall 2009

Decisions and Uncertainty


Frank H. Westhoff (Section 01)


This course will explore the processes individuals and institutions use to make decisions. Particular emphasis will be given to the role that uncertainty plays in these decisions. The mathematics of probability provides a framework that allows us to understand better the nature of uncertainty. We shall observe how we use probability implicitly and explicitly in our everyday lives. Through case studies of political, economic and social issues in such areas as law, medicine and regulation, the usefulness of probability in making decisions will be demonstrated. The course explores, through common sense approaches, how probability helps us understand today's complex and uncertain world.

The course emphasizes quantitative reasoning by exploiting a pedagogical technique called the “Moore method.”  Instead of assigning an extensive reading list, a problem set is required for nearly every class.  The problems are designed to “tease out” important points that will be developed in the subsequent class.  The goal is to make you, the student, an enthusiastic participant in the learning process in which you discover for yourself the important concepts rather than learning the concepts passively from a textbook.  Consequently, students are expected to participate actively in classroom discussions.  In addition, exams and short papers will be required.

Fall semester. Professor Westhoff.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009