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Counting and Probability - Introduction

You've probably heard people say things like:

Teen mother

The chance of rain tomorrow is 75%.

Teen mothers who live with their parents are less likely to use marijuana
than teen moms in other living arrangements.
He won the lottery!
There is longstanding evidence that children raised by single parents
aremore likely to perform poorly in school and partake in deviant
behaviors such as smoking, sex, substance use and crime at young
ages. [Source]
She'll probably take the offer.
Life insurance is so expensive for someone over 50.

All of these statements are about probability. We see words like "chance",
"less likely", "probably" since we don't know for sure something will happen,
but we realise there is a very good chance that it will.

In the case of the lottery (or Toto), there is a very good chance that some
things (like a win) will not happen!

To decide "how likely" an event is, we need to count the number of times an
event could occur and compare it to the total number of possible events. Such
a comparison is called the probability of the particular event occurring.
The mathematical theory of counting is known as combinatorial analysis.
Continues below

In this Chapter

1. Factorial Notation
2. Basic Principles of Counting
3. Permutations
4. Combinations


5. Introduction to Probability Theory

6. Probability of an Event
o Singapore TOTO
o Probability and Poker

Probabilities of 2 or more Events

7. Conditional Probability
8. Independent and Dependent Events
9. Mutually Exclusive Events
10. Bayes Theorem

Probability Distributions

11. Probability Distributions - Concepts

12. Binomial Probability Distributions
13. Poisson Probability Distribution
14. Normal Probability Distribution
o The z-Table

1. Factorial Notation
For the following sections on counting, we need a simple way of writing the
product of all the positive whole numbers up to a given number. We
use factorial notation for this.

Definition of n!
n factorial is defined as the product of all the integers from 1 to n (the order of
multiplying does not matter) .

We write "n factorial" with an exclamation mark as follows: {n}!n!

n! = (n)(n 1)(n 2)...(3)(2)(1)


a) 5! = 5 4 3 2 1 = 120

b) 10! = 10 9 8 ... 3 2 1 = 3,628,800

c) 0! = 1 (this is a convention)

d) 2! = 2


Find the value of: \frac{{{10}!}}{{{5}!}}5!10!

Show answer

NOTE: We conclude from this answer and the answer for (d) above that we
cannot simply cancel a fraction containing factorials. That is:

We use factorial notation throughout this chapter, starting in
the Permutations section.

2. Basic Principles of Counting

An efficient way of counting is necessary to handle large masses of statistical
data (e.g. the level of inventory at the end of a given month, or the number of
production runs on a given machine in a 24 hour period, etc.), and for an
understanding of probability.
In this section, we shall develop a few counting techniques. Such techniques
will enable us to count the following, without having to list all of the items:

On this page...

Number of outcomes
Addition rule
Multiplication rule

the number of ways,

the number of samples, or
the number of outcomes.

Before we learn some of the basic principles of counting, let's see some of the
notation we'll need.

Number of Outcomes of an Event

As an example, we may have an event E defined as

E = "day of the week"

We write the "number of outcomes of event E" as n(E).

So in the example,


since there are {7}7 days in the week.

Continues below

Addition Rule

Let E1 and E2 be mutually exclusive events (i.e. there are no common


Let event E describe the situation where either event E1 or event E2 will occur.

The number of times event E will occur can be given by the expression:

n(E) = n(E1) + n(E2)


In counting and probability,"OR" usually requires us toADD.


n(E) = Number of outcomes of event E

n(E1) = Number of outcomes of event E1

n(E2) = Number of outcomes of event E2

[We see more on mutually exclusive events later in this chapter.]

Example 1

Consider a set of numbers {S}={\left\lbrace-{4},-


Let the events E1, E2 and E3 be defined as:

E = choosing a negative or an odd number from S;

E1= choosing a negative number from S;

E2 = choosing an odd number from S.

Find n(E).

Show answer

E1 and E2 are mutually exclusive events (i.e. no common outcomes).

n(E) = n(E1) + n(E2)


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Example 2

In how many ways can a number be chosen from {1}1 to {22}22 such that

(a) it is a multiple of {3}3 or {8}8? (b) it is a multiple of {2}2 or {3}3?

Show answer

(a) Here, E1 = multiples of {3}3:

E1 = {3, 6, 9,12, 15, 18, 21}

n(E1) = 7

E2 = multiples of {8}8:

E2 = {8, 16}

n(E2) = 2

Events E1 and E2 are mutually exclusive.

n(E) = n(E1) + n(E2) = 7 + 2 = 9

(b) Here, E1 = multiples of {2}2:

E1 = {2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22}

n(E1) = 11

E2 = multiples of {3}3:

E2 = {3, 6, 9,12, 15, 18, 21}

n(E2) = 7

Events E1 and E2 are not mutually exclusive.

We could proceed as follows:

n(E) = n(E1) + n(E2) - n(E1 E2) = 11 + 7 3 = 15

where E1 E2 means "the intersection of the sets E1 and E2".

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Multiplication Rule

Now consider the case when two events E1 and E2 are to be performed and
the events E1 and E2 areindependent events i.e. one does not affect the
other's outcome.

[We see more on independent events later in this chapter.]

Example 3

Say the only clean clothes you've got are {2}2 t-shirts and {4}4 pairs of
jeans. How many different combinations can you choose?


We can think of it as follows:

We have {2}2 t-shirts and with each t-shirt we could pick {4}4 pairs of jeans.
Altogether there are

{2}\times{4}={8}24=8 possible combinations.

We could write

E1 = "choose t-shirt" and

E2 = "choose jeans"

Multiplication Rule in General

Suppose that event E1 can result in any one of n(E1) possible outcomes; and
for each outcome of the event E1, there are n(E2) possible outcomes of
event E2.

Together there will be n(E1) n(E2) possible outcomes of the two events.


In counting and probability,"AND" usually requires us toMULTIPLY.

That is, if event E is the event that both E1 and E2 must occur, then

n(E) = n(E1) n(E2)

In our example above,

n(E1) = 2 (since we had 2 t-shirts)

n(E2) = 4 (since there were 4 pairs of jeans)

So total number of possible outcomes is given by:

n(E) = n(E1) n(E2) = 2 4 = 8

Example 4

What is the total number of possible outcomes when a pair of coins is tossed?

Show answer

The events are described as:

E1 = toss first coin (2 outcomes, so n(E1) = 2.)

E2 = toss second coin (2 outcomes, so n(E2) = 2.)

They are independent, since neither toss affects the outcome of the other

So n(E) = n(E1) n(E2) = 2 2 = 4

[We could list the outcomes: HH HT TH TT].

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Example 5

The life insurance policies of an insurance company are classified by:

age of the insured:

under 25 years,
between 25 years and 50 years,
over 50 years old;
marital status:
single or

What is the total number of classifications?

Show answer

The events are described as:

E1 = age of the insured: 3 age divisions, so n(E1) = 3.

E2 = sex: 2 possibilities, so n(E2) = 2.

E3 = marital status: 2 possibilities, so n(E3) = 2.

Each event is independent, so

n(E) = n(E1) n(E2) n(E3) = 3 2 2 = 12

Example 6
For our clothes problem above, say we found {3}3 caps that we could wear
with our {2}2 t-shirts and {4}4 pairs of jeans. How many different
combinations could we choose from now?

Show answer

Our diagram now looks like this:

We have 2 choices in the first row, 4 in the second row and 3 in the third row.
Together, we will have

n(E) = n(E1) n(E2) = 2 4 3 = 24 combinations

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Example 7
Image source

In the excellent Monoface (external site), we can change the head, left and
right eyes, nose and mouth of some zany guys who work at

We are told that there are 759,375 possible faces. Where does this number
come from?

If they were to let us change the chin as well, how many possible
combinations would there be?

Show answer

There are {15}15 people in the photos (I got this by counting the number of
heads) and there are {5}5 different options that you can change (head, left
eye, right eye, nose and mouth).

So there are

1515151515=155=759,375 combinations

If we add another possible event (changing the chin), we have {6}6 possible
options, so the answer is simply:
{15}^{6}={11},{390},{625}156=11,390,625 combinations
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