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About Prob 140

A. Adhikari

What is Prob 140?

Prob 140 (formally Statistics 140 or STAT 140) is a probability course for undergraduates who have taken Data 8, have a math background, and wish to go deeper into the theory of data science.

The emphasis on simulation and the bootstrap in Data 8 gives students a concrete sense of randomness and sampling variability. Prob 140 capitalizes on this. Because of the students’ backgrounds, Prob 140 will move swiftly over basics, avoid approximations that are unnecessary when SciPy is at hand, and replace some of the routine calculus by symbolic math done in SymPy. This will create time to focus on the more demanding concepts that are part of the theoretical foundations of data science.

Prob 140 is a course in probability theory, not data analysis. The course aims to give students a good theoretical background for modern data analysis. Contents have been selected based on consultation with faculty who regularly teach Stat and CS courses in advanced statistical topics including machine learning. Specifically, Prob 140 is intended to provide good preparation for CS 189 and Stat 154, with the goal that students should be able to move from Prob 140 to a machine learning class without necessarily having to take a semester of theoretical statistics in between.

The class requires more mathematics than Stat 134, the Statistics department’s standard course in classical probability theory; in addition to calculus, Prob 140 requires linear algebra. Computational power in Prob 140 allows students to solve problems that are intractable by other methods. Students also explore the standard mathematical theory graphically and by simulation, and thus develop a more firm grasp of the concepts than they might by using math alone.

What requirements does Prob 140 satisfy?

Prob 140 satisfies the probability requirement for the Data Science major. Along with Data 8 and Data 100, Prob 140 is listed as a Backbone Course for the major.

For the Statistics major and minor, and for Statistics courses numbered 135 and above, Prob 140 satisfies the same requirements as Stat 134 does. If a Statistics course currently requires Stat 134, then Prob 140 will fulfill that requirement too. A letter grade of B- or better in Prob 140 will satisfy the corresponding Stat 134 grade requirement for entry into the Statistics major.

Prob 140 satisfies elective requirements for some non-Stat majors, and students can petition others. Please direct your inquiries to the other major and include the link to the Prob 140 website if needed.

Who can take Prob 140?

Prob 140 is restricted to undergraduates who:

  • Have not taken Stat 134; only one of Stat 134 and Prob 140 can be taken for credit
  • Have taken a year of calculus at the level of Math 1A-1B and preferably higher; Prob 140 involves some double integration and partial derivatives
  • Have taken or are concurrently taking linear algebra in Math 54 or EE 16A or Stat 89A or Math 110, or have taken an equivalent linear algebra course at another college
  • Have taken Data 8 or Data 100 or both Stat 20 and CS 61A

All of the requirements are enforced because the course has been designed specifically for students who have the above background in math, programming, and statistical inference. Students who have the math and programming background but not the inference are encouraged to consider EECS 126.

What is the best way to succeed in Prob 140?

Prob 140 is an upper division course that is primarily mathematical. Students are expected to have a corresponding degree of academic independence, discipline, and mathematical fluency.

In all my courses I aim to make learning as efficient and enjoyable as possible. In particular, I try to make the lectures a great way to learn the material. So show up (there will be no videos) and ask lots of questions. A preparation guide is provided each week; it lists the reading and practice that students should do before attempting the week’s assignments. These lists aren’t just decoration. They are designed to be helpful. Homework will go faster if you’ve done the reading and some practice first.

But rather than reading more advice from me, listen to your fellow students instead. Here are quotes from student evaluations of the Fall 2018 course. They are from answers to the question “What advice would you give to another student who is considering taking this course?” On the first day of class I show all of the responses to this question so you can see that the subset below is representative.

  • Hi future students! There are so many things I can tell you … GO TO ALL THE LECTURES … DO ALL THE ASSIGNMENTS. The lectures, homework, labs and review sets are very well put together. They’re not useless extra practice for stuff, everything there seems to have a purpose … Best of luck, it’s gonna be hard. Really hard. But so worth it. :))
  • I would ask the student to put in 100% effort. Keep up with the textbook and the exercises instead of cramming in a short period of time. Find a buddy to work with and talk over approaches to problems.
  • Start assignments early and ask lots of questions!
  • Go to all the lectures and discussions!!! … Course staff are so friendly and extremely smart that they will help you so much to be successful. And I think Prob 140 is the fight against yourself - challenge yourself and always be ready to more than you are expecting to do.
  • If you work hard, this class will be interesting and rewarding. If you don’t, you’ll hate your life.
  • Definitely take this course and go to every lecture.