MA408      Half Unit
Contemporary Discrete Mathematics

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Jozef Skokan and Prof Peter Allen


This course is available on the MSc in Applicable Mathematics and MSc in Operations Research & Analytics. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Students should have experience with proofs and proof techniques used in pure mathematics.

Course content

This course will cover the basics of graph theory and discrete probability, with an emphasis on how these subjects are used in modern technology.

In the first half of the course, we will introduce the necessary background including discrete random variables and expectations; moments and deviations; Chernoff bounds and concentration inequalities; Markov chains. In the second half we will cover practical applications. The emphasis will be on a rigorous analysis of the mathematics in a model situation, but we will explain briefly the connection to the real world usage. Possible topics include:

randomised routing;

Monte Carlo sampling;

compressive sensing;

infection models on networks.


20 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT. 2 hours of lectures in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 10 exercises in the MT.

Weekly exercises are set and solved in the seminar. Feedback will be provided on selected exercises.

Indicative reading

R Diestel, Graph Theory, Springer;

Mitzenmacher and Upfal, Probability and Computing: Randomized Algorithms and Probabilistic Analysis, CUP;

Several of these texts are available online.  More information, plus additional notes, will be provided during the course.


Exam (75%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Coursework (10%) in the MT.
Coursework (15%) in the LT.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Mathematics

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills