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**Math Circles - February 16, 2011
**

Steve Brown

Probability Problems Set 2

1. Pairwise Best - Worst Paradox You are to play a game in which there are three urns. In each

urn there are some balls and each ball has a number on it. You choose an urn and your opponent

chooses an urn from the remaining ones. You each choose one ball at random from your urn.

Who ever draws the ball with the higher number wins. In urn A, there is one ball numbered 3.

In urn B, there are 56 balls numbered 2, 22 balls numbered 4, and 22 balls numbered 6. In urn

C, there are 51 balls numbered 1 and 49 balls numbered 5. Which urn would you select? Which

urn would be your worst choice? Now, a third player comes along. Each of you will get an urn

and each will draw one ball. The player with the highest number will win. Now which urn do

you choose?

2. In the game Risk, there are times when one player tosses three dice and another player tosses two

dice. The person who tosses the largest number ”wins”. What is the probability distribution for

the largest number tossed by the player who tosses three dice? What is the probability that the

player who tosses the three dice wins?

3. For Lotto 6/49, the prizes and probabilities are given in the table below.

Match Prize Probability

6 of 6 Share of 80.50% of Pools Fund 1/13,983,816

5 of 6 + Bonus Share of 5.75% of Pools Fund 1/2,330,636

5 of 6 (no bonus) Share of 4.75% of Pools Fund 1/55,491

4 of 6 Share of 9.00% of Pools Fund 1/1,032

3 of 6 $10 1/57

2 of 6 + Bonus $5 1/81

Suppose you buy 5 diﬀerent tickets for a draw. What is the probability that you win the grand

prize? If you use this strategy every week for a year, what is the probability that you will win

the grand prize at least once? How many tickets would you need to buy every week for one year

so that the probability you win the grand prize at least once is 10%?

4. You want to ﬁnd someone whose birthday matches yours, so you approach people on the street

asking each one for their birthday. Ignoring leap year babies, if we assume that each person you

approach has probability 1/365 of sharing your birthday, on average how many people would you

have to approach to ﬁnd someone with the same birthday as you?

5. Eight red blocks and four blue blocks are arranged at random in a row. What is the probability

that no two blue blocks are side by side?

6. You will be presented with 10 oﬀers to buy your car. You, quite naturally, want to choose the

best oﬀer. However, you see the oﬀers one at a time, and if you refuse any oﬀer, you do not get

another chance at that oﬀer. You know if you choose an oﬀer at random, there is probability

1/10 of choosing the best oﬀer. So you try the following strategy: Examine the ﬁrst four oﬀers

but refuse each one, noting which of these is the best. Then for each of the other oﬀers, refuse it

if it is lower than the best one you saw in the ﬁrst four, and accept it if it is better than the best

one you saw in the ﬁrst four. If you have not selected an oﬀer by the time the last one comes

in, you take the last one (by now you are desperate). What is the probability that by using this

strategy you will select the best oﬀer?

1

7. You want to ﬁnd someone whose birthday matches yours, so you approach people on the street

asking each one for their birthday. Ignoring leap year babies, if we assume that each person you

approach has probability 1/365 of sharing your birthday, on average how many people would you

have to approach to ﬁnd someone with the same birthday as you?

8. Cereal Box Problem A brand of breakfast cereal oﬀers an action ﬁgure prize in each package.

If there are six diﬀerent action ﬁgures and there are equal numbers of each ﬁgure distributed at

random, one per package, how many boxes would you expect to buy in order to have the complete

set? You can assume there are a very large number of boxes of cereal.

9. A fair die is rolled n times and the value on the upper face is noted Let X be a random variable

giving the number of distinct values in the n rolls (e.g. if, for n = 8 you observe {4,5,3,3,6,1,4,4},

then X = 5). Find E(X). What happens to E(X) as n goes to inﬁnity?

10. (1993 Euclid Contest #10) In a sequence of p zeros and q ones, the ith term, t

i

, is called a

change point if t

i

̸= t

i−1

, for i = 2, 3, 4 . . . , p +q. For example, the sequence 0, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 1 has

p = q = 4, and ﬁve change points t

2

, t

4

, t

6

, t

7

, t

8

. For all possible sequences of p zeros and q ones,

with p ≤ q, determine:

(a) the minimum and maximum number of change points.

(b) the average number of change points.

11. (1997 Euclid Contest #10) A group of n married couples arrives at a dinner party and is seated

around a circular table. The distance between the members of a couple is deﬁned to be the number

of people sitting between them measured either clockwise or counter-clockwise, whichever gives

the smaller result.

(a) Considering all possible seating arrangements of the 2n people, what is the average distance

between a particular couple A?

(b) Considering all possible seating arrangements for the 2n people, what is the average number

of couples, per arrangement, where both members of the couple are seated side-by-side?

(c) Repeat the question if the 2n people are attending the theatre and are seated in a row.

(The distance between members of a couple is deﬁned here as the number of people sitting

between them).

12. A sample of size n is chosen at random with replacement from the integers 1, 2, . . . , N. (In

sampling with replacement, an item is drawn, we note which item it was, and it is then replaced.

Note that not all integers need to be diﬀerent under sampling with replacement). Find the average

number of diﬀerent integers in the sample. What happens if n ≪ N?

13. A random graph with n vertices is generated by connecting pairs of vertices at random. Each of

the possible

(

n

2

)

possible edges is inserted with probability p, independently of other edges. Find

the average number of triangles in the graph.

14. n people toss their hats in the air and the hats are picked up randomly. Each person who gets

his or her own hat leaves and the remaining people toss the hats again. The process continues

until every person has received his or her own hat again. Find the average number of rounds of

tosses required.

2

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