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MA40239: Discrete probability

[Page last updated: 27 September 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Mathematical Sciences
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Masters UG & PG (FHEQ level 7)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: EX 100%
Assessment Detail:
  • Examination (EX 100%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Requisites: Before taking this module you must take MA30125 or you must have taken MA20225 and have consulted the unit lecturer.
Learning Outcomes: On completing the course, students should be able to:
* Describe the giant component phenomenon in random graphs and the phase transition phenomenon in percolation theory;
* Compute percolation thresholds on graphs such as trees;
* Perform simple computations on discrete probability structures (for example, mean subgraph counts on random graphs, or lattice animal counts);
* Apply tools such as Harris' inequality and branching process approximation;
* Appreciate ideas behind such theorems as the infinite cluster's uniqueness.

Aims: To introduce some discrete probabilistic structures with relevance to networks, statistical physics and communications - in particular, random graphs and percolation. To present some of the key results on these structures and the mathematical ideas and techniques behind these results. To acquaint the student with notions of phase transition, spatial and combinatorial methods in probability theory.

Skills: Numeracy T/F A
Problem Solving T/F A
Written and Spoken Communication F (in tutorials)

Content: Random Graphs: definition and motivation; small subgraphs; giant component and phase transition; maximum degree; clique number. Other aspects of random graphs such as: connectivity, chromatic number, bipartite matchings, sharp thresholds.
Percolation Theory: non-triviality of the phase transition; lattice animals, percolation on trees, uniqueness of the infinite component, properties and interpretation of the percolation probability. Other aspects of percolation theory such as: the critical value on the square lattice, self-avoiding walk, random resistor networks.
Further topics in discrete probability may be considered such as: invariant distributions, bounds and cut-off phenomena for Markov chain mixing times and examples thereof; entropy, noiseless coding, discrete memoryless channel in information theory.

Programme availability:

MA40239 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Economics
  • UHES-AFB04 : BSc(Hons) Economics and Mathematics (Year 3)
  • UHES-AAB04 : BSc(Hons) Economics and Mathematics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • UHES-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Economics and Mathematics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHES-ACB04 : BSc(Hons) Economics and Mathematics with Combined Placement and Study Abroad (Year 4)
Department of Mathematical Sciences
  • RSMA-AFM16 : Integrated PhD Statistical Applied Mathematics
  • TSMA-AFM17 : MRes Statistical Applied Mathematics
  • TSMA-AFM16 : MSc Statistical Applied Mathematics
  • USMA-AFB15 : BSc(Hons) Mathematical Sciences (Year 3)
  • USMA-AAB16 : BSc(Hons) Mathematical Sciences with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USMA-AKB16 : BSc(Hons) Mathematical Sciences with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • USMA-AFB13 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics (Year 3)
  • USMA-AAB14 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USMA-AKB14 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • USMA-AFB01 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Statistics (Year 3)
  • USMA-AAB02 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Statistics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USMA-AKB02 : BSc(Hons) Mathematics and Statistics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • USMA-AFB05 : BSc(Hons) Statistics (Year 3)
  • USMA-AAB06 : BSc(Hons) Statistics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USMA-AKB06 : BSc(Hons) Statistics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • USMA-AFM14 : MMath(Hons) Mathematics (Year 3)
  • USMA-AFM14 : MMath(Hons) Mathematics (Year 4)
  • USMA-AAM15 : MMath(Hons) Mathematics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • USMA-AKM15 : MMath(Hons) Mathematics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • USMA-AKM15 : MMath(Hons) Mathematics with Year long work placement (Year 5)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.