What Is Probability

What is probability? Probability can be a complex field of mathematics, but in its simplest definition it is the likelhood of an event being true divided by the total number of possibilities. For example, flipping a coin has two possibilities: heads or tails. There is only one way for a coin to land on heads, so the answer to this probability question is 1:2.

Why Is the Study of Probability Important?
Probability and statistics are useful to us in many ways. Knowing the likelihood of an event happening is important information in decision making that is used in nearly every field. For example, research studies use probability in determining whether or not a new drug is worth putting on the market. Does the effectiveness of the drug outweigh the harm it causes to a patient's body? Probability can help answer that question.

Politicians like to use statistics and probability to their advantage as well. Politician A can claim X number of people will get a tax break under her plan, while Politician B can claim that her number is incorrect and really only Y number of people will benefit from the plan. Probability and statistics are very easily manipulated, so having a good knowledge of the field can help you determine what spin is being put on an issue. Maybe Politician A's numbers were mathematically correct, but only for a certain tax bracket.

Planning a trip to the beach? The weather report may call for a 75% chance of rain, so you plan on staying home instead. This is a common example of probability that directly impacts your life. Meteorologists use probability to help predict weather patterns.

Having a good understanding of probability can help you make better decisions and sort out the truth behind the numbers. Probability can also be used for fun. Game shows like Deal or No Deal rely on probability to keep things exciting. As the number of available suitcases decreases, the chance of someone eliminating the top cash prize actually increases. When the "Banker" makes an offer for the contestant's suitcase, whose value is unknown, the probability of the contestant winning the top prize decided what the Banker's offer will be.

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