First-Year Seminar
Mathematics of Games
Autumn 2014

This is the homepage for Dr. Ronnie Pavlov's First-Year Seminar on the Mathematics of Games. This page will be updated throughout the term with important information for our course, including homework assignments, review materials, and more.

  • Assignment 8 has been posted.
  • Solutions have been posted for our midterm.
  • Office hours have been decided and posted below. We'll talk Thursday about whether these work for all of you, and I can add more if not.
Course Information

Our course meets every TR from 10:00 a.m. - 11:50 p.m. in Sturm Hall 476.

Instructor: Ronnie Pavlov
Office: Aspen Hall 715C
Phone: (303)-871-4001
Office hours: Wednesday 9-11, Thursday 3-4, or by appointment (please try to give 24 hours notice for appointment requests)


Text: Game Theory and Strategy by Philip D. Straffin.

This book is available at the DU Bookstore.

Course summary

Most of us have played games such as Tic-Tac-Toe, chess, Go, checkers, and poker. Many games can be studied mathematically using a branch of mathematics called game theory. We will discuss various facets of elementary game theory, including (but not limited to!) how to formulate strategies, what makes some strategies ``better'' than others, what makes some games difficult or impossible to analyze, and applications to real-world concepts. Specific topics we may cover include the Nash equilibrium, the prisoner's dilemma, and bluffing in poker.

The class will not be purely theoretical; we will spend lots of time applying the course concepts by playing various games. A homework assignment might involve analyzing a simple game, devising a winning strategy, and then trying it out during class.

The course will be roughly broken up into two halves. The first half will be devoted to games where both players move simultaneously, without knowledge of the other player's move. (These are also called matrix games.) In the second half, we will focus on games where the players move sequentially, taking turns, until the game ends. (These are also called sequential games.)

Grading scheme

Your term grade will consist of homework assignments (which may include problems from the text, problems I make up, or slightly longer open-ended projects), one midterm exam, and one final exam, broken down in the following way:

50% Homework
20% Midterm Exam
30% Final Exam

Written Homework

Late assignments will have a percentage subtracted according to the following policy:

2-3 days late: -50%
>3 days late: not accepted


You will have a midterm exam on Thursday, October 16th and a final exam on Tuesday, November 18th. Both exams will be in our classroom during classtime (10:00 a.m. - 11:50 p.m.)

Course Policies

Students in this course are expected to abide by the University of Denver's Honor Code and the procedures put forth by the Office of Citizenship and Community Standards. Academic dishonesty - including, but not limited to, plagiarism and cheating - is in violation of the code and will result in a failing grade for the assignment or for the course. As student members of a community committed to academic integrity and honesty, it is your responsibility to become familiar with the DU Honor Code and its procedures: see

The learning outcomes for this course are:

  • Discover what it means to be an active member of an intellectual community by meeting rigorous academic expectations through critical reading, discussion, research, and/or writing.
  • Practice newly acquired skills in an active learning environment where writing, performing, laboratory experiments, quantitative analyses, or other forms of experiential and/or creative activities will shape the goals and activities of the seminar.