UNIT 2
PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS
OBJECTIVES
General Objective
To understand the concept of probability distributions
Specific Objectives
At the end of the unit you should be able to:
Construct a probability distribution for a random variable.
Find the mean, variance, and expected value for a discrete random
variable.
Find the exact probability for X successes in n trials of a binomial
experiment.
Find the mean, variance, and standard deviation for the variable of a
binomial distribution.
Fit a theoretical distribution given a frequency list.
Identify distributions as symmetrical or skewed.
Identify the properties of the normal distribution.
Find the area under the standard normal distribution, given various z
values
Find probabilities for a normally distributed variable by transforming it into
a standard normal variable.
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Find specific data values for given percentages using the standard normal
distribution.
2.0 INTRODUCTION
A variable can be defined as a characteristic or attribute that can assume
different values. Various letters of the alphabet, such as X, Y, or Z, are used to
represent variables. Since the variables in this unit are associated with
probability, they are called random variables.
If a variable can assume only a specific number of values, such as the outcomes
for the roll of a die or the outcomes for the toss of a coin, then the variable is
called a discrete variable. Discrete variables have values that can be
counted.
2
A random variable is variable
whose values are determined by
chance
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Variables that can assume all values in the interval between any given two
values are called continuous variables. For example, if the temperature goes
from 60
o
to 75
o
in a 24hour period, it has passed through all possible number
from 60 to 75. Continuous random variables are obtained from data that can
be measured rather than counted.
2.1 PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTION
The procedure shown here for constructing a probability distribution for a discrete
random variable uses the probability experiment of tossing three coins. Recall
that when three coins are tossed, the sample space is represented as TTT, TTH,
THT, HTT, HHT, HTH, THH, HHH, and if X is the random variable for the number
of heads, then X assumes the value 0, 1,2, or 3.
Probabilities for the value of X can be determined as follows:
No
heads
One head Two heads Three
heads
TTT TTH THT HTT HHT HTH THH HHH
8
1
8
1
8
1
8
1
8
1
8
1
8
1
8
1
8
1
8
3
8
3
8
1
Hence, the probability of getting no heads is
8
1
, one head is
8
3
, two heads is
8
3
, and three heads is
8
1
. From these values, a probability distribution can be
constructed by listing the outcomes and assigning the probability of each
outcome , as shown.
Number of heads, X 0 1 2 3
Probability, P(X)
8
1
8
3
8
3
8
1
A discrete probability distribution consists of the values a random variable can
assume and the corresponding probabilities of the values. The probabilities are
determined theoretically or by observation.
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Example 2.1
1. Construct a probability distribution for rolling a single die.
2. Represent graphically the probability distribution for the sample space for
tossing three coins.
3. In the rainy months, a store selling umbrella keeps track of the number of
umbrellas it sells each day during a period of 90 days. The number of
umbrellas sold per day is represented by the variable X. The results are
shown here.
X Number of days
0 45
1 30
2 15
Total 90
Compute the probability P(X) for each X, and construct a probability
distribution and graph for the data.
Two requirements for a Probability Distribution
The sum of the probabilities of all events in the sample space must equal 1; that is
The probability of each event in the sample space must be between or equal to 0
and 1. That is
a
P(X)1
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Solution to Example 2.1
1. Since the sample space is S = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6},, and each outcome has a
probability of
6
1
, the distribution is as follows:
Outcome X 1 2 3 4 5 6
Probability, P(X)
6
1
6
1
6
1
6
1
6
1
6
1
2. The values X assumes are located on the xaxis, and the values for P(X)
are located on the y axis.
Number of Heads,
X
0 1 2 3
Probability, P(X) 1/8 3/8 3/8 1/8
3. The probability P(X) can be computed for each X by dividing the number
of days X umbrellas sold by total days.
For 0 umbrellas: 5 . 0
9 0
4 5
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For 1 umbrella: 3 3 . 0
9 0
3 0
For 2 umbrellas: 1 7 . 0
9 0
1 5
b
a
dx x f b X a P ) ( ) (
with the following requirements satisfied..
i)
0 ) ( x f
For every possible x values
ii)
1 ) ( dx x f
Therefore f(x) is a probability density function for X (pdf)
Example 2.2
Prove Y is a continuous random variable given the following pdf:
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f(y) =
'
o t h e r s
y y
0
2 0 ) 2 (
2
1
i) Find P(Y>1)
ii) P(Y<1)
iii) P(0.5<Y1)
iv) Draw the graph for f(y) and double check your answer (i)
through (iii) by finding the area under the graph.
Solution to Example 2.2
+
]
]
]
+ + +
0 2
0 2
2
0
2
1 0
2
2
2
1
0 ) 2 ( 0 ) 2 (
2
1
) (
y
y ody dy y dy dy y dy y f
It is proven that Y is a continuous random variable.
i) 4 / 1
2
2
2
1
) 2 (
2
1
) 1 (
2
1
2 2
1
]
]
]
>
y
y dy y Y P
ii) 4 / 3
2
2
2
1
) 2 (
2
1
) 1 (
1
0
1
0
2
]
]
]
y
y dy y Y P
iii) 16 / 5
2
2
2
1
) 2 (
2
1
) 1 5 . 0 (
1
5 . 0
1
5 . 0
2
]
]
]
y
y dy y Y P
iv) P(Y>1) = the area of triangle = X =1/4
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(ii) P(Y<1) = Area of trapezium =
4
3
1 .
2
1
1
2
1
,
`
.

+
iii) P(
< ) 1 5 . 0 y
area of trapezium =
16
5
2
1
2
1
4
3
2
1
,
`
.

+
1
1/2
1 2 y
f(y)
2 y
f(y)
1
1/2
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ACTIVITY 2B
TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT
INPUT!
1. The continuous random variable has the following pdf:
0.2
0 1 < y
f(y) = 0.2 + cy
1 0 < y
0 others
Find the constant c and
a)
) 5 . 0 0 ( Y P
1/2 1 2 y
f(y)
1
3/4
1/2
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b)
5 . 0 5 . 0 ( < Y P
c) P(Y>0.5)
d) P(Y)>0.5 / P(Y)>0.1
2. The continuous random variable x has the following pdf :
f(x) = x 0x2
c(2x3) 2x3
0 others
a) Find the constant c
b) Sketch y = f(x)
c) Find P (X1)
d) Find P (X>2.5)
e) Find P (1X2.3)
3. The continuous random variable x has the following pdf :
1/x
2
for 1 <x <
f(x) =
0 others
If A = { x : 1<x<2} and B = { x: 4 <x<5 }, find
a) P(AB)
b) P(AUB)
4. Find mode for :
a) P (X) = x = (
2
1
)
2
x = 1,2,3
b) f(x) = 12x
2
(1x) 0<x<1
c) f(x) = (
2
1
)x
2
e
x
0<x<
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FEEDBACK TO ACTIVITY 2B
1. c = 1.2 (a) 0.25, (b) 0.35, (c) 0.55, (d) P(Y>0.5) = 0.55, P(Y)>0.1 = 0.774
P(Y)>0.5 / P(Y)>0.1 = 0.71
2. a) c =
b) The sketch of y = f(x)]
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1
y = (2x3)
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c) P =
d) P = 5/16
e) P = 0.3475
3. a) P(AB) = 0
b) P(AUB) =
20
11
4. a) X = 1
b) X =
3
2
c) X = 2
1 2 3
1/2
1/4
y = 1/4
16
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2.3 THE BINOMIAL DISTRIBUTION
Many types of probability problems have only two outcomes, or they can be
reduced to two outcomes. For example when a coin is tossed, it can land heads
or tails. When a baby is born, it will be either male or female. A multiplechoice,
even though there are four or five answer choices, can be classified as correct or
incorrect. Situation like these are called binomial experiments.
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A binomial experiment and its results give rise to a special probability
distribution called the binomial distribution. The outcomes of a binomial
experiment and the corresponding probabilities of these outcomes are called a
binomial distribution.
The probability of a success in a binomial experiment can be computed with the
following formula.
Notation for the Binomial Distribution
P(S) The symbol for the probability of success
P(F) The symbol for the probability of failure
p The numerical probability of a success
q The numerical probability of a failure
P(S) = p and P(F) =1 p = q
n The number of trials
X The number of success
Note that 0Xn
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A binomial experiment is a probability experiment that satisfies the following
four requirements:
1. Each trial can have only two outcomes or outcomes that can be reduced to
two outcomes. The outcomes can be considered as either success or failure.
2. There must be a fixed number of trials.
3. The outcomes of each trial must be independent of each other.
4. The probability of a success must remain the same for each trial.
PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
Binomial Probability Formula
In a binomial experiment, the probability of exactly X successes in n trials is
x n x
q p
X X n
n
X P
. .
! )! (
!
) (
Example 2.3
1. A coin is tossed three times. Find the probability of getting exactly two
heads.
2. If a student randomly guesses at five multiplechoice questions, find the
probability that the student gets exactly three correct. Each question has
five possible choices.
3. Solve the problem in (a) using the binomial distribution table.
4. A fake survey reported that 5% of Malaysians are afraid of being alone at
night. If a random sample of 20 Malaysians is selected, find the
probabilities using the binomial table:
0 There are exactly five people in the sample who are afraid
being alone at night.
1 There are at most three people in the sample who are being
afraid of being alone at night.
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2 There are at least three people in the sample who are afraid
of being alone at night.
Solution to Example 2.3
1. This problem can be solved by looking at the sample space. There are
three ways to get two heads.
S = {HHH, HHT,HTH, THH, TTH, THT, HTT, TTT}
The answer is
8
3
, or 0.375
2. From the standpoint of a binomial experiment, you can show that it meet
the four requirements.
a. There are only two outcomes for each trial, heads or tails.
b. There is a fixed number of trials (three)
c. The outcomes are independent of each other (the outcome of one toss in
no way affects the outcome of another toss).
d. The probability of a success (heads) is
2
1
in each case.
In this case, n = 3, X = 2, p =
2
1
, and q =
2
1
. Hence substituting in the
formula gives P(2 heads) =
375 . 0
8
3
)
2
1
( )
2
1
(
! 2 )! 2 3 (
! 3
1 2
.

,
`
.

4. You need the binomial distribution table. Fit in the proper values and the
answer is 0.375.
i) n = 20, p = 0.05, and X = 5. From the table, one gets 0.02.
ii) n = 20, and p = 0.05. At most three people means 0, or 1, or 2, or 3.
Hence the solution is P(1) + P(2) + P(3) = 0.358 + 0.377 + 0.189 +
0.060 = 0.984
iii) n = 20 and p = 0.05. At least three people means 3, 4, 5,, 20. This
problem can best be solved by finding P(0) + p(1) + P(2) and
subtracting from 1.
P(0) + P(1) + P(2) = 0.358 + 0.377 + 0.189 = 0.924
1 0.924 = 0.076
ACTIVITY 2C
TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT
INPUT!
1. Which of the following
are binomial experiments or can be reduced to binomial experiments?
i) Surveying 100 people to determine if they like Siti Nurhaliza.
ii) Tossing a coin 100 times to see how many heads occur.
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
iii) Testing four different brands of aspirin to see which brands are
effective.
iv) Testing one brand of aspirin using 10 people to see which brands
are effective.
2. Compute the probability of X successes, using the binomial formula.
I) n = 6, X = 3, p = 0.03
ii) n = 4, x = 2, p = 0.18
iii) n = 5, x = 3, p = 0.63
iv) n = 9, X = 0, p = 0.42
3. A student takes a 10question, truefalse exam and guesses on each
question. Find the probability of passing if the lowest passing grade is 6
correct out of 10. Based on your answer, would it be a good idea not to study
and depend on guessing?
Feedback to Activity 2C
1. Yes, ii) Yes, iii) No, iv) Yes
2. Refer to the table
3. 0.377; no, your score will be about 40%
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2.4 MEAN, VARIANCE AND STANDARD DEVIATION FOR THE
BINOMIAL DISTRIBUTION
In the use of the binomial distribution, the outcomes must be independent. For
example, in a selection of components from a batch to be tested, each
component must be replaced before the next one is selected. Otherwise, the
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
outcomes are not independent. However, a dilemma arises because there is a
chance that the same component could be selected again. This situation can be
avoided by not replacing the component and using the hyper geometric
distribution to calculate the probabilities.
Mean, Variance, and Standard Deviation for the binomial
Distribution
mean
p n.
variance q p n . .
2
standard deviation =
q p n . .
Example 2.4
1. A coin is tossed is tossed four times. Find the mean, variance, and standard
deviation of the number of heads that it will be obtained.
2. A die is rolled 480 times. Find the mean, variance, and standard deviation
of the number of 2 s that will be rolled.
Solution to Example 2.4
1. With the formulas for the binomial distribution and n = 4, p =
2
1
, and q =
2
1
,
the
result are
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
2 . 4 .
2
1
p n
1 . . 4 . .
2
1
2
1
2
q p n
1 1
2. n = 480, p =
6
1
. This is a binomial situation, where getting a 2 is a success
and
not getting 2 is a failure; hence,
( ) 8 0 . 4 8 0 .
6
1
p n
( ) ( ) 7 . 6 6 4 8 0 . .
6
5
6
1
2
q p n
2 . 8 7 . 66 . . q p n
On average, there will be 80 twos. The standard deviation is 8.
ACTIVITY 2C
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT
INPUT!
1.A statistical bulletin reported that 2% of all births result in twins. If a random
sample of 8000 births is taken, find the mean, variance, and standard deviation
of the number of births that would result in twins.
2.If 2% of automobile carburetors are defective, find the mean, variance, and
standard deviation of 500 carburetors.
FEEDBACK TO ACTIVITY 2C
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
1.
160,
2
156.8,
12.5
2.
108
1
27
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2.5 THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION
What is Normal?
It is known that the normal range of systolic blood pressure 110 to 140. The
normal interval for a persons triglycerides is from 30 to 200 mg/dl. By measuring
these variables, a doctor can determine if a patients vital statistics are within the
normal interval, or if some type of treatment is needed to correct the condition
and avoid future illness. The question then is How does one determine the so
called normal interval?
Recall that a continuous variable can assume all values between any two given
values of the variables. Many continuous variables have distributions that are
bellshaped and are called approximately normally distributed variables. For
example, if we select a random sample of 100 adult women, measure their
heights, and construct a histogram, we get a graph similar to the one in fig (a).
Now if we increase the sample size and decrease the width of the classes, the
histogram will look like the ones shown in fig. (d) and (c). Finally, if it were
possible to measure exactly the heights of all adult females in Malaysia and plot
them, the histogram would approach what is called the normal distribution,
shown in (d).
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
When the data values are evenly distributed about the mean, the distribution is
said to be symmetrical. See fig (a) below. When the majority of the data values
fall to the left or right of the mean, the distribution is said to be skewed. See fig
(b) and (c)
Normal and Skewed Distributions
For the sake of simplicity, a theoretical curve, called the normal distribution curve
can be used to study many variables that are not perfectly normally distributed
but are nevertheless approximately normal. The mathematical equation for the
normal distribution curve is
2
) 2 /( ) (
2 2
X
e
y , where e 2.718,
=3.14,
=
population mean,
X
z
This is the same formula used in Section 34. The use of this formula will be
explained in the next session.
As stated earlier, the area the normal distribution curve is used to solve practical
application problems, such as finding the percentage of adult women whose
height is between 5 feet 4 inches and 5 feet 7 inches, or finding the probability
that a new battery will last longer than four years. Hence, the major emphasis of
this section will be to show the procedure for finding the area under the standard
normal distribution curve for any z value. The application will be shown in the
next section. Once the X values are transformed using the preceding formula,
they are called z value. The z value is actually the number of standard deviations
that a particular X value is away from the mean.
For the solution of problems using the normal distribution, a fourstep procedure
is recommended with the use of the Procedure Table shown below.
STEP 1 Draw a picture
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
STEP 2 Shade the area desired.
STEP 3 Find the correct figure in the following Procedure Table.
STEP 4 Follow the directions given in the appropriate block of the
Procedure Table to get the desired area.
Finding The Area under The Normal Distribution Curve
Example 2.5
Find the probability (i.e. the area under the curve) for each question 1 through
17.
Question 1
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
a.
) 5 . 0 ( Z P
b.
) 0 . 1 ( Z P
c.
) 53 . 1 ( Z P
d.
) 998 . 1 ( Z P
e.
) 86 . 1 ( Z P
Question 2
a. If X~N(1, 4), find
) 3 3 ( X P
b. If X~N(2, 4), find
) 4 1 ( X P
c. If X~N(2, 9), find
) 12 0 ( X P
d. If X~N(5, 36), find
) 12 10 ( X P
Solution to Example 2.5
Question 1
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Question 2
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ACTIVITY 2D
TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT
INPUT!
1. Find the area to the right of Z = 2.43 and to the left of Z = 3.01.
2. Find the probability
for each.
a) P(0<z<2.32)
b) P(z<1.65)
c) P(z>1.91)
3. Find the z value
such that the areas under the normal distribution curve
between 0 and the z value is 0.2123.
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
FEEDBACK TO ACTIVITY 2D
1. 0.0088, or 0.88%
2. i) 0.4898, or 48.98%
ii) 0.9505, or 95.05%
iii) 0.0281, or 2.81%
3. 0.56
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
2.6 APPLICATIONS OF THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION
To solve problems by using the standard normal distribution, transform the
original variable into a standard normal a standard normal distribution variable
by using the formula
ion darddeviat s
value
z
tan
min
or
X
z
For example, suppose that the scores for a standardized test are normally
distributed, have a mean of 100, and have a standard deviation of 15. When the
scores are transformed into z values, the two distributions coincide, as shown in
the figure below. (Recall that the z distribution has a mean of 0 and a standard
deviation of 1)
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Example 2.6
1. If the scores for the test have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of
15, find the percentage of scores that will fall below 112.
2. Each month, a Malaysian household generates an average 28 kg of
newspaper for garbage recycling. Assume the standard deviation is 2 kg.
If a household is selected at random, find the probability of its generating
i) Between 27 and 31 kg per month.
ii) More than 30.2 kg per month. Assume the variable is approximately
normally distributed.
3. The normal distribution can also be used to answer questions of
how many? Automobile Association of Malaysia reports that the average
time it takes to respond to an emergency call is 25 minutes. Assume the
variable is approximately distributed and the standard deviation is 4.5
minutes. If 80 calls are randomly selected, approximately how many will
be responded to in less than 15 minutes.
4. In order to qualify for Askar Wataniah Politeknik training program,
candidates must score in the top 10% on a general abilities test. The test
has a mean of 200 and a standard deviation of 20. Find the lowest
possible score to qualify. Assume the test scores are normally distributed.
5. For a medical study, a researcher wishes to select people in the middle
60% of the population based on blood pressure. If the mean systolic blood
pressure is 120 and the standard deviation is 8, find the upper and lower
readings that would qualify people to participate in the study.
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
Solution to Example 2.6
1.
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43
Hence, the probability that a randomly selected household generates between
27 and 31 kg of newspaper per month is 62.47%.
PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
3.
STEP 2 Find z values for 15.
2 . 2
5 . 4
25 15
X
z
STEP 3 Find the appropriate area. The area obtained from the table is
0.4868, which corresponds to the area between z = 0 and z = 2.2
STEP 4 Subtract 0.4868 from 0.5000 to get 0.0132.
STEP 5 To find how many calls will be made in less than 15 minutes,
multiply the sample size (80) by the area (0.0132) to get 1.056.
Hence, 1.056, or approximately one, call will be responded to in
under 15 minutes.
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
4.
STEP 1 Subtract 0.1000 from 0.5000 to get area under the normal
distribution between 200 and X: 0.5000 0.1000 = 0.4000
STEP 2 Find the z value that corresponds to an area of 0.4000 by looking
up 0.4000 in the table. If the specific value cannot be found, use the
closest value, for example 0.3997. The corresponding z value is
1.28.
STEP 3 Substitute in the formula
X
z
and solve for X.
20
200
28 . 1
X
of which the answer is X = 226.
A score of 226 should be used as cutoff. Anybody scoring 226 or
higher qualifies.
5. Assume that blood pressure readings are normally distributed; then cutoff
points are as shown in the figure below.
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
Note that two values are needed, one above the mean and one below the
mean. Find the value to the right of the value first. The closest z value for an
area of 0.3000 is 0.84. Substituting in the formula
+ z X
, one gets
72 . 126 120 ) 8 )( 84 . 0 (
1
+ + z X
, On the other side, z = 0.84; hence
28 . 113 120 ) 8 )( 84 . 0 (
2
+ X
Therefore , the middle 60% will have blood pressure readings of
113.28<X<126.72
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
ACTIVITY 2E
TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE NEXT
INPUT!
1. The mean income of daily labors is RM60. Assume the standard deviation
RM10. If a labor is selected at random, what is the probability that his
salary is 
a) more than RM70
b) below RM62
c) more than RM64
d) between RM62 and RM72
e) between RM55 and RM80
2. Absorption tests on 500 bricks gave a mean absorbtion and standard
deviation of 10.3% and 2.1% respectively. Determine the number of bricks
with absorbtion
a) between 8.9% and 11.1%
b) greater than 15%.
3. Chipboard partition units are produced with a mean length of 75mm and
standard deviation 6 mm. Determine the rejection rate if the permissible
length deviations are t15 mm (assume the lengths to be normally
distributed).
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
FEEDBACK TO ACTIVITY 2E
1. a) P(X>70) = 0.1567
b) P(X<62) = 0.5793
c) P(X>54) = 0.7257
d)
3056 . 0 ) 72 62 ( X P
e)
6687 . 0 ) 80 55 ( X P
2. a) P(8.9<X<11.1) = 0.3966
b) P(X>15) = 2.24
3. P(735>X>765) = 0.0124 that is the rejection rate is 1.24%
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
SELFASSESMENT 2
You are approaching success. Try all the questions in this selfassessment
section and check your answer given on the next page. If you face any problems,
consult your instructor. Good luck.
1. What is a probability distribution? Give an example.
2. Determine whether the distribution represents a probability distribution. If it
is not, state why
X 3 6 9 12 15
P(X) 4/9 2/9 1/9 1/9 1/9
Construct a probability distribution for the data and draw a graph for the
distribution.
State whether The Variable is Discrete or Continuous (34)
3. The number of cups of coffee a fast food restaurant serves each day.
4. The weight of a rhinoceros
5. The probability that a patient will have 0, 1,2 or 3 medical tests performed
on entering a hospital are
15
6
,
15
5
,
15
3
and
15
1
,
respectively.
6. The probabilities that a customer will purchase 0,1,2, or 3 books are 0.45,
0.30 ,0.15 and 0.10, respectively.
7. The probabilities that a customer selects 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 items at a
convenience store are 0.32, 0.12, 0.23, 0.18 and 0.15, respectively.
8. Construct a probability distribution for drawing a card from a deck of 40
cards consisting of 10 cards numbered 1, 10 cards numbered 2 and 15
cards numbered 3 and 5 cards numbered 4
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PROBABILITY DISTRIBUTIONS C 5606/2/
FEEDBACK TO SELFASSESSMENT 2
Have you tried the questions??? If YES, check your answers now.
1. A probability distribution is a distribution that consists of the values a
random variable can assume along with the corresponding probabilities of
these values.
2. Yes
3. Discrete
4. Continuous
5 8: Refer to example 2.1
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