The Lyco Lowdown: An Insider's View of Life at Lycoming

What Are The Odds?

Posted by Schai Bilger on Nov 11, 2016 5:15:00 PM
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Let's face it, some of us dread the thought of having to take math classes, let alone at the college level. So would I be crazy if I said my college math class is fun? I think this has a lot to do with my professor, because he understands that mathematics is not for everyone, and can seem like a scary thing if you've only ever had bad experiences with math in the past. What is even scarier is having a course named “Combinatorics” and not knowing what that means! There are two reasons why I took this course: the first is because I needed another mathematics course to fulfill my distribution requirements, and the second is that I had already had a class with the professor and I really enjoy his teaching style.

Combinatorics is a math class that deals with finding a set amount of combinations for objects according to certain constraints. Here's an example: “How many ways can you line up a group of people?” Of course, the answer isn't always simple to find because you can set constraints, such as, "Person A refuses to be first in line." This is just an example, but there are many different principles of combinatorics to follow depending on what you are trying to calculate.

I know it sounds intimidating, but the professor is very thorough at explaining each lesson as well as making sure you understand the content. The best part of the course are "Fun Fridays," when we play games that relate back to what we learned during the week. I personally find it fascinating when we apply math to games I used to play with my family, such as Clue, Spoons, and Bingo.

Lycoming Math Professor Uses Common Games to Demonsrate Math Principles

More recently we started a unit in poker. For the math portion we are calculating the probability of getting each hand. Knowing this will not increase your chances of winning but it is still interesting to know how likely it is to get different hands in the game. Of course, for our Fun Friday we actually played poker. In the past I have only played with my mom and I will say that luck has never been on my side! This goes for all the other games we played in class - I always lose. Going to class for poker on Friday, I didn't expect anything different. I thought I would be one of the first to lose all of my chips. During one of the hands I decided to go for it and bluff because I was down to my last few chips. My plan paid off and I ended up winning the pot! From then on I was lucky enough to get a few more pairs of cards, eventually winning at my table. I ended with 83 chips and my professor rewarded each table winner with a drink from Cafe 1812.

Next week the winners from each table will play again in a “Championship” match. Hopefully, luck will be on my side once again, but I won't count on it!

Win or lose, it is about having fun with my peers after a long week of assignments and tests. With that said, I have to thank Dr. Smith for incorporating games in math class to wind down each week. They have really helped me enjoy having a math class because there is always something to look forward to at the end of the week!

The Liberal Arts Education at Lycoming is awesome! Find out more about it, and see if Lyco is a good fit for you.

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Topics: Liberal Arts Education, Academics