The Probability Handbook

Mary McShane-Vaughn

Hardcover
 248 Pages    2016
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Probability is tough – even those fairly well versed in statistical analysis balk at the prospect of tackling it. Many probability concepts seem counterintuitive at first, and the successful student must in effect train him or herself to think in a totally new way. Mastery of probability takes a lot of time, and only comes from solving many, many problems.

The aim of this text and its companion, The Probability Workbook (coming soon), is to present the subject of probability as a tutor would. Probability concepts are explained in everyday language and worked examples are presented in abundance. In addition to paper-and-pencil solutions, solution strategies using Microsoft Excel functions are given. All mathematical symbols are explained, and the mathematical rigor is kept on an algebra level; calculus is avoided.

This book is written for quality practitioners who are currently performing statistical and probability analyses in their workplaces, and for those seeking to learn probability concepts for the American Society for Quality (ASQ) Certified Quality Engineer, Reliability Engineer, Six Sigma Green Belt, Black Belt, or Master Black Belt exams.

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Customer Reviews:     Please log in or register to comment.    FAQ

It is a very good reference to statistics and 6-sigma books – as it goes deeper into the concepts behind the study of probability. A quantitative result that most of the time we use for our arguments but have little understanding as to how it was derived. It certainly opened up some interesting debates in my household because just when you think you know the answer, Dr. Mc-Shane-Vaughn has a different perspective that made sense but not commonly thought of as a typical response. Humor is sprinkled all throughout the text, encouraging students to have fun with probabilities, but not lose the core building blocks of what is needed to understand the concepts. If you are somewhat convinced that the study of probability have practical uses all around us, this book will guide your journey through understanding why and why not, and help us make sound and practical decisions.

Why helpful?
The Probability Handbook provides very helpful examples to better visualize different counting techniques and probably concepts. There are fewer derivations, instead more practical ways of interpreting given formula. It also provides helpful tips on how to get the results using MS excel functions.

Just when you are wondering how these probability distributions relate to everyday work, Dr. Mc-Shane-Vaughn provides you with a section which enumerates some examples on where these concepts are commonly used and applied in the industry.

What I like most about this handbook is how it is organized, i.e. learn why use it, the concepts and rules from Chapters 1 thru 3 and if you deal mostly with attribute data, refer to Chapter 4, otherwise (continuous data), refer to Chapter 5.

What are some cons?
It will take awhile to grasp some of these concepts IF they are not put to use in day to day work (and life) and as always with any data acquisition and analysis, need to be complemented with looking at the data – practically and graphically.

I could ask for more practice data on the examples enumerated where these concepts are commonly used and applied in the industry, but then it will not be a Handbook. It will be a Very Thick Book, which would most likely just overwhelm the reader, and the examples would not be the exact same scenarios dealt with in everyday work so NO, I think the content is just right.

--Elaine G. Quirk, 05-30-2016


The Probability Handbook by Dr. Mary McShane-Vaught explains probability in simple terms with great examples. Anyone can gain an appreciation of the need for probability in the first pages. Uses and Applications are included throughout the text as a great way to increase interest in a subject that many people find difficult and confusing. It is a great reference with listing of formulas that makes them easy to find and thorough appendices.

I wish the Probability Handbook was available when I first encountered probability as an undergraduate!
--Mary Beth Soloy, ASQ Fellow, CMBB, CSSBB, CQE, CRE, 05-03-2016


In her preface to “The Probability Handbook,” the author states that the purpose of this text “is to present the subject of probability as a tutor would.” Mary McShane-Vaughn truly succeeded in her goal through the use of simple explanations, clear presentation of formulae and solutions, as well as understandable examples of problems, such as the probability of selecting a particular color sock from a drawer. In addition, she presents the use of Microsoft Excel to perform many of the calculations; this will be of assistance in situations where there is no statistical software available.

The text begins with the basic concepts of counting techniques and then moved on to types of data and sampling methods. It then presents probability types along with clear explanations and equations. The remainder of the book is divided into three parts: discrete probability distributions, continuous probability distributions, and the appendices, which include the tables for many commonly used distribution calculations. At the end of each distribution section, there is a summary table for each distribution presented, along with the parameters and formulae.

This book will be useful both in the classroom and the workplace as well as a good reference tool for any of the ASQ certification exams.
--Judi Kern, 04-23-2016


The Probability Handbook (2016) by Dr. Mary McShane-Vaughn is in my mind a fundamentally-required reference to the Quality Assurance (QA) professional’s library. Dr. McShane-Vaughn presents the basic concepts of probability and provides explanations that are both comprehensive and understandable.

She begins with the basic concepts of how to calculate the total number of possibilities for specific applications (typically the denominator in a probability equation) and then explains how to arrive correctly at the total number of cases that match the design criteria (the numerator).

She then proceeds to enumerate both discrete and continuous probability distributions, explains the applicability of each, and then provides the required information necessary to recognize when to use each particular probability distribution, what it looks like, and what its limitations are. She provides both textual and equational details, making the material available to a wide range of student/observer comprehension capabilities.

She manages to provide this significantly technical information in a relatively informal and conversational manner, making it seem as if one is consulting with a considerably knowledgeable friend, that has the capability of helping with homework. The book provides not only the necessary information in an easily understood manner, but conveys a quiet confidence that once you understand the content, you viscerally understand the subject.

It is the calm conversion of theory to easily understood application that makes this volume so valuable. I would recommend it to any QA professional needing to understand or teach the concepts of probability; truly to anyone needing or wanting to understand the building blocks of probability. I’ve only had my copy for a time period most suitably measured in weeks, and it is already well thumbed and highlighted.

--Grant Short, 04-21-2016


The Probability Handbook is a superb introduction to a subject that can be extremely difficult to master because of its sometimes inherently counterintuitive nature. The author presents all of the commonly encountered discrete and continuous probability distributions in an extraordinarily clear, easy-to-read, and sometimes fun manner, requiring only knowledge of simple algebra. Numerous examples are provided, as are the uses and applications for each distribution that clearly bridge the gap between the mathematical formulation and real-world application. A must-read for those with a desire to learn about the fundamentals of a fascinating branch of mathematics, as well as for technical professionals that frequently encounter problems of probability in the areas of quality and reliability. The book is also an excellent refresher and reference guide for those with more advanced knowledge of probability.
--Martin J. Dale, 04-11-2016


I loved this book: it made me feel as if i actually understood probability! (and, if you knew me, you would know that that is a pretty neat trick). This would be an outstanding college text.
--Stephen Graham-Hill, 03-21-2016


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