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studies the likelihood of occurrence of random events in order to predict the behavior of defined

systems.

Starting with this definition, it would (probably :-) be right to conclude that the Probability

Theory, being a branch of Mathematics, is an exact, deductive science that studies uncertain

quantities related to random events. This might seem to be a strange marriage of mathematical

certainty and uncertainty of randomness. On a second thought, though, most people will agree

that a newly conceived baby has a 50-50 chance (exact but, likely, inaccurate estimate) to be, for

example, a girl or a boy, for that matter.

Interestingly, a recent book by Marilyn vos Savant dealing with people's perception of

probability and statistics is titled The Power of Logical Thinking. My first problems will be

drawn from this book.

As with other mathematical problems, it's often helpful to experiment with a problem in order to

gain an insight as to what the correct answer might be. By necessity, probabilistic experiments

require computer simulation of random events. It must sound as an oxymoron - a computer (i.e.,

deterministic device) producing random events - numbers, in our case, to be exact. See, if you

can convince yourself that your computer can credibly handle this task also. A knowledgeable

reader would, probably, note that this is a program (albeit deterministic) and not the computer

that does the random number simulation. That's right. It's me and not your computer to blame if

the simulation below does not exactly produce random numbers.

When you press the "Start" button below, the program will start random selection. Every second

it will pick up one of the three numbers - 1, 2, or 3. You can terminate the process anytime by

pressing the "Stop" button. Frequencies of selections appear in the corresponding input boxes.

Do they look random?

Top of

Form

Bottom 2 3

of Form

1

0 0 0

T

o

p

o

f

F

o

r

m

B

o

t

t

o

m

o

f

F

o

r

m

Remark

Actually, the process of selection includes no selection at all. As a mathematician Robert

Coveyou from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has said, The generation of random numbers

is too important to be left to chance. Instead, I have a function that is invoked every second.

Each time it's invoked, it produces one of the three 1, 2, 3 numbers. This is how the function

works.

I start with an integer seed = 0. When a new random number is needed, the seed is replaced with

the result of the following operation

seed = (7621 × seed + 1) mod 9999

In other words, in order to get a new value of seed, multiply the old value by 7621, add 1, and,

finally, take the result modulo 9999. Now, assume, as in the example above, we need a random

selection from the triple 1, 2, 3. That is, we seek a random integer n satisfying 1 ≤ n ≤ 3. The

formula is

n = [3 × seed/9999] + 1.

Taking it step by step, dividing seed by 9999 produces a nonnegative real number between 0 and

1. This times 3 gives a real number between 0 and 3. Brackets reduce the latter to the nearest

integer which is not greater than the number itself. The result is a nonnegative integer that is less

than 3. Adding 1 makes it one of the three 1, 2, or 3.

Teaching activities

Introduction

Hold up a 1-6 dice. Tell the class you are going to throw the dice 30 times and see how many

times each number is rolled. Draw a tally chart ready for the results and ask the class if they can

guess. Choose five children to roll the dice 6 times and record the results. Were they as

expected? Explain that all the numbers have an equal chance of being rolled. Could a 7 be

rolled? How likely is this? Why? Write the following probability terms down on the board or a

poster for revision: impossible, unlikely, equal chance, likely, certain. Show children the

coloured sticker dice. Using the probability terms on the board, ask children questions. What are

the chances of rolling a yellow (unlikely)? What are the chances of rolling a red (likely)? What

are the chances of rolling a purple (impossible)?.

Activity

Display the online activity on the class whiteboard. Demonstrate the first part of the activity and

the show the children how to use the lever on the probability machine. Small groups or pairs can

then work through the remainder of the activity on the class computers. While awaiting their

turn, remaining groups can take a set of number cards 1-10, put them in a bag, and then draw and

replace a card 30 times. They should draw up a tally chart of their results. Then convert this to a

tally chart of odd and even numbers. What are the chances of drawing a 5 (1 in 10 or one tenth)?

How many 5s do they predict should be drawn (3)? Is this the case? What are the chances of

drawing an odd number (1 in 2 or one half). How many odd numbers do they predict should be

drawn (15). Is this the case?.

Plenary

Ask a pair of children to talk to the class about their number card tally charts and results. Was it

as they expected?

Extension

Children can work through the online quiz or complete the Worksheet.

Homework

Ask children to roll a 1-6 dice 50 times. What patterns do they notice? What are the chances of

drawing an odd number? An even number? A multiple of 4? A multiple of 2?

Some time ago, Ilia Denotkine has posted the following problem on the CTK Exchange

There are 100 prisoners in solitary cells. There's a central living room

with one light bulb; this bulb is initially off. No prisoner can see the light

bulb from his or her own cell. Everyday, the warden picks a prisoner

equally at random, and that prisoner visits the living room. While there,

the prisoner can toggle the bulb if he or she wishes. Also, the prisoner

has the option of asserting that all 100 prisoners have been to the living

room by now. If this assertion is false, all 100 prisoners are shot.

However, if it is indeed true, all prisoners are set free and inducted into

MENSA, since the world could always use more smart people. Thus, the

assertion should only be made if the prisoner is 100% certain of its

validity. The prisoners are allowed to get together one night in the

courtyard, to discuss a plan. What plan should they agree on, so that

eventually, someone will make a correct assertion?

I have seen this problem on the forums, and here are some of the best solutions (in

my opinion):

1. At the beginning, the prisoners select a leader. Whenever a person (with the

exception of the leader) comes into a room, he turns the lights on (but he

does this only once). If the lights are already on, he does nothing. When the

leader goes into the room, he turns off the lights. When he will have turned

off the lights 99 times, he is 100% sure that everyone has been in the room.

2. wait 3 years, and with a great probability say that everyone has been in the

room.

Does anyone know The optimal solution???

I have taken this problem from the www.ocf.berkeley.edu site, but I believe

that you can find it on many others.

Puzzles, which is a recommended book in any event. Winkler also lists a slew of

sources where the problem appeared, including ibm.com and a newsletter of the

MSRI.

The solution is this:

The prisons select a fellow, say Alice, who will have a special responsibility. All

other prisoners behave according to the same protocol: each turns the light off twice,

i.e. they turn it off the first two times they find it on. They leave it untouched

thereafter. Alice turns the light on if it was off and, additionally, counts the number

of times she entered the room with the light off. When her count reaches 2n - 3 she

may claim with certainty that all n prisoners have been to the room.

As it happened, I was wrong. This may be immediately surmised from Stuart Anderson's

response. In my wonderment I contacted Peter Winkler who kindly set things straight for me.

The formulation in his book is somewhat different, but this difference proves to be of major

significance:

Each of n prisoners will be sent alone into a certain room, infinitely often, but in

some arbitrary order determined by their jailer. The prisoners have a chance to

confer in advance, but once the visits begin, their only means of communication will

be via a light in the room which they can turn on or off. Help them design a protocol

which will ensure that some prisoner will eventually be able to deduce that everyone

has visited the room.

N

This would work of course, but is it optimal? For instance, this would also work, I think:

Alice counts the times she finds the light on, and ensures that it is always off when she leaves the

room. Everyone else turns on the light the first time they find it off, and then never touches it

again. This way, between visits of Alice, at most one prisoner will turn on the light, and no

prisoner turns it on more than once. Therefore the number of times Alice finds the light on is no

more than the number of different prisoners that have entered the room. Each prisoner knows he

has been counted once he has turned the light on, since he is the only one who touched the switch

since Alice last visited. When Alice counts to n-1, she knows everyone has visited the room.

What does optimal mean here? It could only reasonably mean that the prisoners are freed in the

shortest time. So what is the expected time they must wait until Alice has counted to n-1? This is

a rather elaborate calculation in probability, so the prisoners turn to the actuary (who is in prison

for embezzlement) for some answers.

He explains that using Bayes theorem,

P(X|Y)·P(Y) = P(X&Y) = P(Y|X)·P(X)

and the linearity of expected value,

E(X|Y)·P(Y) + E(X|~Y)·P(~Y) = E(X)

you can calculate the expected time in prison like this:

Suppose Alice has just visited the room, and let K be the number of days that pass before her

next visit (so she visits again K+1 days from now), let n be the number of prisoners, let c be the

number of times she has found the light on so far, and let P(ON) and P(OFF) be the probabilities

that she finds the light on or off on her next visit. Then E(K) = n - 1, P(K=k) = 1/n·((n-1)/n)k,

P(K = k & OFF) = 1/n·(c/n)k, which are fairly obvious.

Summing the last formula over all k gives P(OFF) = 1/(n-c). Bayes theorem then gives P(K = k|

OFF) = (1-c/n)·(c/n)k, and from this you can calculate E(K|OFF) = c/(n-c) and linearity gives

E(K|ON) = ((n-1)(n-c)-c/(n-c))/(n-c-1).

Now let m be the number of times Alice visits and L be the number of days that pass before she

next finds it on. Each time she finds it is off, c does not change, so all the calculations regarding

the time until her next visit also do not change.

Therefore, the expected number of days until she next finds the light on is found by summing

over all possible m to get the expected total time wasted on visits where the light is off, plus the

expected time for the one visit where it was on. This gives

E(L) = (1+E(K|ON))P(ON) + sum(m(1+E(K|OFF))P(OFF)m

= n(1/(n-c-1) - 1/(n-c) + 1 - 1/(n-c)2).

Now we know how long we expect to wait from count = c to count = c+1. Therefore, we must

sum this up from c=0 to c=n-2 to find the total expected time E(T). The result is E(T) = n2 - n/(n-

1) - a, where a = Σ (1/c2) from 2 to n. Putting n=100 into this gives 9935.5 days, which is 26.2

years.

But (continues the actuary) this is absurdly long to wait. Simple probability shows that we can be

almost certain much sooner than this. The probability that on day d the count is c is P(c, d),

which is obviously equal to P(c-1,d-1)·(1-(c-1)/n) + P(c, d-1)·(c/n). Of course, P(0, 0) = P(1, 1) =

1 and P(1,0) = 0, so we can recursively calculate the probability P(n, d). It turns out that

P(100,1146) = 0.999, and P(100,1375) = 0.9999, P(100,1604) = 0.99999, and P(1833) =

0.999999. That means that in 3.14 years, we have a less than 1/1000 chance of failing, and in

exactly 5 years and a week, we have less than one in a million chances of failing. I say we should

wait 5 years and then say "let us out, we've all seen the light."

As they are about to kill Alice (who was already a member of Mensa) for coming up with a crazy

plan to keep them in prison for 26 years, the game theorist (who is in prison for insider trading

on the stock market) steps in to point out that this is a losing move. If they kill her now she will

never go into the room, and the warden will keep them here forever.

In the happy ending, they let Alice live, and they all get out of prison in 5 years. Strangely, they

all decline to join Mensa, preferring to enter actuarial training.

Example:

At a car park there are 100 vehicles, 60 of which are cars, 30 are vans and the remainder are

lorries. If every vehicle is equally likely to leave, find the probability of:

a) van leaving first.

b) lorry leaving first.

c) car leaving second if either a lorry or van had left first.

Solution:

a) Let S be the sample space and A be the event of a van leaving first.

n(S) = 100

n(A) = 30

Probability of a van leaving first:

n(B) = 100 – 60 – 30 = 10

Probability of a lorry leaving first:

c) If either a lorry or van had left first, then there would be 99 vehicles remaining, 60 of which

are cars. Let T be the sample space and C be the event of a car leaving.

n(T) = 99

n(C) = 60

Probability of a car leaving after a lorry or van has left:

Example:

A survey was taken on 30 classes at a school to find the total number of left-handed students in

each class. The table below shows the results:

No. of left-handed

0 1 2 3 4 5

students

Frequency (no. of

1 2 5 12 8 2

classes)

A class was selected at random.

a) Find the probability that the class has 2 left-handed students.

b) What is the probability that the class has at least 3 left-handed students?

c) Given that the total number of students in the 30 classes is 960, find the probability that a

student randomly chosen from these 30 classes is left-handed.

Solution:

a) Let S be the sample space and

A be the event of a class having 2 left-handed students.

n(S) = 30

n(A) = 5

n(B) = 12 + 8 + 2 = 22

No. of left-handed

0 1 2 3 4 5

students, x

Frequency, f

1 2 5 12 8 2

(no. of classes)

fx 0 2 10 36 32 10

Total no. of left-handed students = 2 + 10 + 36 + 32 + 10 = 90

Here, the sample space is the total number of students in the 30 classes, which was given as 960.

Let T be the sample space and C be the event that a student is left-handed.

n(T) = 960

n(C) = 90

Example:

ABCD is a square. M is the midpoint of BC and N is the midpoint of CD. A point is selected at

random in the square. Calculate the probability that it lies in the triangle MCN.

Solution:

Let 2x be the length of the square.

Area of square = 2x × 2x = 4x 2

Drawing Marbles

From: Kayla

Subject: probablity

A jar contains two red marbles, three blue marbles, and four green

marbles. Niki draws one marble from the jar, and then Tom draws a

marble from those remaining. What is the probablity that Niki draws a

green marble and Tom draws a blue marble? Express your answer as a

common fraction.

From: Doctor Wallace

Subject: Re: probablity

Hi Kayla!

a decimal from 0 to 1. A probability of 0 means the event can never

happen. A probability of 1 means the event is certain to happen.

One useful rule is that to find a basic probability, with all outcomes

equally likely, we make a fraction like this:

---------------------------------

number of total chances

For example, suppose we have a jar with 4 red marbles and 6 blue. We

want to find the probability of drawing a red one at random. So our

event is "drawing a red marble." The probability of this is:

-----------------------

total marbles in jar (the number of total chances)

probability of drawing a red marble is 2/5. This is because all the

outcomes are equally likely. That is, any individual marble has the

same chance of being drawn. If we numbered all the marbles, what is

the probability of picking out no. 5? Well, there is only 1 number 5

marble, and still 10 marbles in the jar, so the answer is 1/10.

Now suppose we have 2 events. Let's say that Niki is going to draw 1

marble, and then Tom is going to draw one from the remaining marbles.

What is the probability that Niki gets a blue one? What is the

probability that Tom gets a red one?

Again, we use our fraction. When Niki draws, there are 10 marbles in

the jar, of which 6 are blue, so her probability of drawing a blue is

6/10 or 3/5. After she draws, it is Tom's turn. But now there are

only 9 marbles left. 4 of these are red, so his probability of

drawing a red marble is 4/9.

many events you have. Here we have figured the probability for TWO

events. The first is that Niki draws a blue marble. The second is

that Tom draws a red one AFTER Niki has drawn.

But, suppose we want to know the probability of the ONE event: "Niki

draws a blue marble AND Tom draws a red one." It seems like the same

question, but it isn't. The reason is that now we have more than one

way this could happen. We could have:

(2) Niki draws a blue, then Tom draws a red

(3) Niki draws a red, then Tom draws a blue

(4) Niki draws a red, then Tom draws a red

These are the only 4 possibilities. They are not all equally likely,

however. When we have ONE event which is made up of two separate

events with the word AND, we multiply the individual probabilities to

get the answer.

3/5. How about Tom drawing blue also? Well, after Niki draws blue,

there are 9 marbles left, and 5 blue, so its 5/9. And so 3/5 times

5/9 is 3/9 or 1/3.

You should be able to do your problem, now. I got a bit lengthy here,

since I can't tell from your question if it's meant to be just 1 event

with an "and." I think that it is. But, if not, you can also figure

out just the individual probabilities for the two marble draws, as

well.

Gambler's Fallacy

Date: 03/14/2003 at 14:13:18

From: Kevin

Subject: Lottery: Betting same number vs randomly selecting a number.

probability of selecting the winning number in any lottery, say pick

5. He states that he would rather bet the same set of five numbers

every time for x period of time, but I insist that the probability is

the same if you randomly select any set five numbers for the same

period of time. The only assumption we make here is betting one set of

numbers on any given day. Who is correct?

is the same for both of us. On day two it is the same. On day three it

is the same, etc. Therefore the sum of the cumulative probabilities

will be the same for both of us.

Date: 03/15/2003 at 03:29:05

From: Doctor Wallace

Subject: Re: Lottery: Betting same number vs randomly selecting a

number.

Hello Kevin,

You are correct. If you have the computer randomly select a different

set of 5 numbers to bet on every day, and your friend selects the same

set of numbers to bet on every day, then you both have exactly the

same probability of winning.

instead of balls. If the lottery had a choice of, say, 49 numbers,

then imagine a very large hat containing 1 ticket for every possible

combination of 5 numbers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; 1, 2, 3, 4, 6; etc.

On the drawing day, ONE ticket is pulled from the hat. It is equally

likely to be any of the C(49,5) tickets in the hat. (There would be

1,906,884 tickets in the hat in this case.)

Since both you and your friend have only ONE ticket in the hat, you

both have the same chance of winning.

On the next drawing day for the lottery, ALL the tickets are replaced.

Each lottery draw is an event independent of the others. That is to

say, the probability of any combination winning today has absolutely

NO effect on the probability of that or any other combination winning

tomorrow. Each and every draw is totally independent of the others.

The reason your friend believes that he has a better chance of winning

with the same set of numbers is probably due to something called the

"gambler's fallacy." This idea is that the longer the lottery goes

without your friend's "special" set of numbers coming up, the more

likely it is to come up in the future. The same fallacy is believed by

a lot of people about slot machines in gambling casinos. They hunt for

which slot hasn't paid in a while, thinking that that slot is more

likely to pay out. But, as the name says, this is a fallacy; pure

nonsense. A pull of the slot machine's handle, like the lottery draw,

is completely independent of previous pulls. The slot machine has no

memory of what has come before, and neither has the lottery. You might

play a slot machine for 2 weeks without hitting the big jackpot, and

someone else can walk in and hit it in the first 5 minutes of play.

People wrongly attribute that to "it was ready to pay out." In

reality, it's just luck. That's why they call it gambling. :)

"You flip a fair coin 20 times in a row and it comes up heads every

single time. You flip the coin one more time. What is the probability

of tails on this last flip?"

Most people will respond that the chance of tails is now very high.

(Ask your friend and see what he says.) However, the true answer is

that the probability is 1/2. It's 1/2 on EVERY flip, no matter what

results came before. Like the slot machine and the lottery, the coin

has no memory.

From: Andrew Valovcin

Subject: Re: Math symbol for C

This is my first time to your site and I find it very interesting and

enjoyable. I am puzzled by one symbol of typing math. What does the

upper case letter C mean? Like in (2 C 1) (3 C 1) / (47 C 2) = 6/1081.

I can't figure it out and before I get any more frustrated I thought

I'd better write to you.

From: Doctor Anthony

Subject: Re: Math symbol for C

The symbol nCr stands for the number of combinations of r things that

can be formed from n different things.

find that permutations and combinations will feature a good deal in

the early chapters. Modern text books now use a different notation for

nCr, but it is written on two lines, the n above the r and with

brackets around them but no line between. This notation is not

suitable for ascii presentation, so we have to revert to the older nCr

notation. In ascii we also use C(n,r) to mean the same thing, and

this has advantages if we are working with numbers as the numbers

themselves stand out more clearly.

10!

10 C 4 = C(10,4) = ------ = 210

4! 6!

that could be formed from 10 different things, then we write:

10!

10 P 4 = P(10,4) = ----- = 5040

6!

Date: 02/06/97 at 15:44:00

From: Anonymous

Subject: Odds and probability

slang term for probability?

From: Doctor Wallace

Subject: Re: Odds and probability

a fraction, which is the ratio of the number of chances of a specific

event to the total number of chances possible.

For example, if I have 4 marbles in a jar, 3 red and 1 blue, then the

probability of drawing the blue is 1/4. There is one chance of a blue

marble and 4 total chances (marbles).

Odds are expressed as the number of chances for (or against) versus

the number of chances against (or for). So, since there is 1 chance

of your picking the blue, and 3 chances of your picking red, the odds

are 3 to 1 AGAINST you picking the blue. For odds in favor, we just

reverse them. The odds are 1 to 3 IN FAVOR OF you picking the blue.

odds as AGAINST, you put the number of chances against first, versus

the number of chances for. If you express odds as IN FAVOR OF, you

put the chances for the event happening first.

Note that this does NOT mean that the probability is 1/3 for or

against in the above example.

the odds against a horse winning are 4 to 1, this means that, out of

5 (4 + 1) chances, the horse has 1 chance of winning. So the

PROBABILITY of the horse winning is 1/5 or 20 percent.

write back!

From: Yuxiao

Subject: Probabilities

If a person rolls two dice, what is the probability of getting a five

as the sum of the two dice?

From: Doctor Mitteldorf

Subject: Re: Probabilities

Dear Yuxiao,

It takes a lot of getting used to. The only way to get a feeling that

you really understand probabilities is to do lots and lots of

examples.

multiplying numbers like 7*3 = 21, where the numbers get bigger as you

multiply them. But if the numbers are fractions less than 1, then

multiplying them together makes the result smaller.

together makes a smaller number. If the probability of one thing

happening is x and the probability of another thing happening is y,

you can multiply x times y to get a smaller number that is the

probability of both things happening.

Let's apply this to the two dice. You know that the probability of

getting a 1 on the first die is 1/6. The probability of getting a 4 on

the second die is also 1/6. So multiply these two together and you

find that the probability of getting BOTH a 1 on the first die AND a

4 on the second die is 1/36.

That's one of the ways you can get a 5 with two dice. So 1/36 is part

of the probability of rolling a 5, but not all of it. Can you list the

other ways?

1 4

2 3

3 2

4 1

We've listed four ways to get a five, and that's all there are. Each

of these combinations has a probability of 1/36 of happening; so the

total probability of rolling a 5 is 4/36, which is 1/9.

A good next step for you would be to make a chart of all the results

1 through 12 and calculate the probabilities for each in the way I

just did for 5. You can check your chart when you're finished by

adding up the probabilities for all 12 numbers: The probabilities

should add up to 1. That's because one of these numbers HAS TO come

up, so the probability of getting any number 1 through 12 is 1.

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

From: Doctor Anthony

Subject: Re: probabilities

--------------------------------------

Total number of possible outcomes

2 + 3 " " = 1/36

3 + 2 " " = 1/36

4 + 1 " " = 1/36

--------------

Total probability = 4/36 = 1/9

Alternatively, there are 4 ways we can get a total of 5 and there are

36 possible outcomes when you roll two dice.

4 1

Required probability = ----- = ---

36 9

Date: 12/10/2002 at 20:27:26

From: Apurva Yeluru

Subject: Probability: Permutations and Combinations

Dr. Math,

in it. Last year in our school, we had a probability fair and I could

not understand it very well. Now I can! I know what probability is and

what permutations are and what combinations are. But this is the part

where I am stuck: How is probability related to permutations and

combinations?

Thanks!

From: Doctor Ian

Hi Apurva,

The relationship is that when you want to compute the probability that

something will happen, you do this:

p = -----------------------------------

how many ways can anything happen?

and denominator of this fraction. For example, if you want to know

the probability of drawing two pairs in poker, that's

p = --------------------------------------------------

the number of combinations of 5 cards

compute the number of ways that things can be selected from a group

(combinations) or ordered within a group (permutations).

Coin Flipping

From: Lee, Choong Loon

Subject: Probability

I wonder how I can figure out the chances of the following case:

(T=Tail, H=Head)

To flip the same coin five times, what will be the chances of getting

the same combination (exact sequence) "right away"? I know that

1/5X1/5X1/5X1/5X1/5 is the formula to get 3T and 2H right away.

Somebody told me there is some method call "condition" special for

this kind of problem. It is like 1/2 X1/3 X1/4 X1/5 X1/6 but I am not

sure.

detail. Thank you very much.

From: Doctor Wolf

Subject: Re: Probability

mainstay of probability theory:

can result in M distinct outcomes, then experiment A followed by

experiment B can result in exactly N*M different outcomes. And of

course this can be generalized to more than two experiments.

Example: You roll a single die, then flip a coin. How many different

outcomes are possible? Let's see... 6 outcomes for the die, 2 for the

coin, so 6*2 or 12 different outcomes are possible. They may be

thought of as (3,T), (1,H), (6,H), etc.

Also, since the outcome of the die in no way affects the tossing of

the coin, each of the 12 possible outcomes will have probability

(1/6)*(1/2) or 1/12. This is called an "equiprobability space," and is

quite common.

Now, back to your problem. You will be performing the same experiment

5 times in succession; that is, flipping a coin. Each flip of the

coin can result in 2 distinct and equally likely outcomes, H or T.

Moreover, the result of any coin flip is not influenced by or

dependent upon any previous coin flip. That last statement regarding

independence of the coin flips is very important; it tells us that all

possible outcomes after 5 coin flips are equally likely, or have the

same probability.

outcomes to your problem. The one you are interested in is (TTTHH).

The chance of getting T(first flip), then T(second flip), then T(third

flip), H on the fourth flip and H on the fifth flip is:

(1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2) = 1/32.

times has the same probability .... 1/32.

Factorial

From: Leigh Ausband

Subject: Factorial

Robert Smalls Middle School, Beaufort, SC.

Eric Peevey

Date: 4/2/96 at 4:2:32

From: Doctor Jodi

Subject: Re: Factorial

Hi Eric!

Say you were having a lottery and were picking 4 numbers out of 60 with

no repeats of numbers.

You'd find out the probability of picking a certain 4-number set (in a

certain order) by saying

59 for the second,

58 for the third,

57 for the fourth.

60!

---

(60-4)!

Since the numbers 56 and less divide out, you're left with 60*59*58*57

as the number of ordered sets of 4 lottery numbers that could be drawn

From: Melissa

Subject: Probability of two heads on four tosses

The question I need to ask is: What is the probability of getting two

heads on four flips of an unbiased coin? I have looked at your other

answers, and think it would be 1/8 because:

Melissa Dismukes

Date: 05/18/2000 at 13:42:43

From: Doctor TWE

Subject: Re: Probability of two heads on four tosses

would be the answer for getting 4 heads in 4 flips (or 0 heads in 4

flips).

/\

Toss:

/ \

/ \

/ \

T H 1st

| |

/ \ / \

/ \ / \

/ \ / \

T H T H 2nd

| | | |

/ \ / \ / \ / \

/ \ / \ / \ / \

T H T H T H T H 3rd

| | | | | | | |

/ \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \

T H T H T H T H T H T H T H T H 4th

| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

0H 1H 1H 2H 1H 2H 2H 3H 1H 2H 2H 3H 2H 3H 3H 4H

4T 3T 3T 2T 3T 2T 2T 1T 3T 2T 2T 1T 2T 1T 1T 0T

* * * * * *

each outcome is equiprobable (P = 1/16), and the probability of

tossing exactly 2 heads (outcomes marked with *) is 6/16 = 3/8.

For a more general solution to this type of problem, search Dr. Math

for "binomial probability" (without the quotation marks) using our

archive search engine at:

http://mathforum.org/mathgrepform.html

History of Probability

From: Patty Liao

Subject: Probability's history

anything on it. Any other historical facts about probability?

It's for a report for a project.

Date: 04/08/97 at 09:34:26

From: Doctor Statman

Subject: Re: Probability's history

Dear Patty,

chances of getting different values for rolls of dice,

and his discussions with Pierre de Fermat are usually

considered the beginning of the study of probability.

will be on the right track.

Date: 06/09/2003 at 16:42:08

From: Sonny

Subject: What is the difference between "independent" and "dependent"

events?

an example?

From: Doctor Ian

Subject: Re: What is the difference between "independent" and

"dependent" events?

Hi Sonny,

Two events are independent if the outcome of one has no effect on the

outcome of the other. The classic example would be rolling a pair of

dice. What happens with one die has no effect on what happens with the

other die.

Two events are dependent if the outcome of one has an effect on the

outcome of the other. The classic example would be drawing cards from

a deck without replacement. The probability of drawing an ace changes

depending on what other cards have already been drawn.

probabilities for dependent events often involve factorials.

How many ways are there to roll three dice? There are 6 ways to roll

the first, 6 ways to roll the second, and 6 ways to roll the third, so

the number of possible outcomes is

6*6*6 = 6^3

How many ways are there to draw three cards from a deck without

replacement? There are 52 ways to draw the first one; but now there

are only 51 ways to draw the second (because one card has been

removed); and only 50 ways to draw the third. So the number of

possible outcomes is

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

Date: 11/03/2004 at 19:46:12

From: Aman

Subject: probability and infinity

segment of length 10m has endpoints at point A and Point B, both of

which are on the line. What is the probability that a randomly chosen

point on the line is on line segment AB?

I simply thought of this problem and was wondering how to solve it. I

became curious and decided to ask you. I was thinking something along

the lines of 1/infinity but I don't really know what to do.

From: Doctor Vogler

Subject: Re: probability and infinity

Hi Aman,

Thanks for writing to Dr. Math. While it might not seem like it, your

question is really not so much a question of computing the probability

as it is in understanding what probability is all about. So let me

ask you a different, but related, question:

probability that the number is smaller than one million?

think hard about what you really mean by "choose at random." Before

going into more detail, I did a search on our archives for

probability infinity

and found some interesting reading. Doctor Wallace gave a very nice

and detailed description of a similar problem on:

http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/62553.html

http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/56540.html

integer." If you use his idea, then the answer to my question to you

is zero. The answer to your question to me can be described in the

same way, and you would, again, get zero.

But now let's back up again and think about these random numbers.

Doctor Tom said to pick a random number up to M, and then calculate

the probability. Then you take a limit, which means to assume that M

is really, really big. And the bigger it gets, the closer your

probability is getting to.... Well, is it getting closer to some

number? It doesn't always, but it did in his problem, and it does in

ours. Suppose that we pick a random number from 1 to M. Then if M is

very large, the probability that our number will be less than a million is

1000000

-------.

M

bigger M gets, the smaller this number gets, and the probability goes

to zero.

a random positive integer. How many digits would it have, on average?

If you use the same logic as above, it would have, on average, about

as many digits as half of M. And this gets bigger and bigger as M

does, so a random integer has infinitely many digits.

Huh? That doesn't make much sense! And now we get to probability

theory. Mathematicians describe this in terms of measures, which you

would not be familiar with, so I'll describe the concepts and try to

be more understandable than precise.

probability that we choose THIS group of choices?" If there are only

finitely many total choices to choose from (like 300 choices), then

you can answer the question like this: The probability is the number

of choices in the group divided by 300. This is known as "uniform

probability." You can do something similar about choosing points on a

line. If the line has finite length, then the probability that your

choice lies on some portion of the line is the length of the portion

divided by the length of the whole line. This is also "uniform

probability."

This isn't the only way to answer the question, though. Suppose you

have a weighted coin that lands on heads two-thirds of the time, and

lands on tails only one third of the time. That is also a probability

but it is NOT uniform probability.

But now let's suppose that you have infinitely many choices. You

can't divide by infinity. So that means that it doesn't make sense to

use uniform probability. So we must have some kind of "weighted"

probability. There are many ways to do this. Here is one way:

the integer n with probability (1/2)^n. That is, 1/2 of the time we

choose the number 1. And 1/4 of the time we choose the number 2. And

1/8 of the time we choose the number 3. And so on. You'll notice

that the probabilities of all of the numbers added together is 1. (If

you are not familiar with infinite series, notice that each time you

add another probability it gets closer to 1. For more than this,

search our archives for "infinite sums" and "geometric series.")

random number less than one million? And the answer is: very good.

In fact, the probability is more than 99.999999%. That's a lot better

than it was using the other way, and that is because this new

probability measure is heavily weighted toward small numbers. The

other one was uniform probability up to M, which means that high

numbers (near M) have the same probability as low numbers, but there

are more high numbers than low numbers.

And this is not the only way to decide the probabilities. There are

infinitely many ways. For example, you can choose the integer n with

probability 2/(3^n), or you choose choose the integer n with

probability 6/(n*pi)^2. The only requirement is that all of the

probabilities together add up to 1.

points have equal probability, then you get 1/infinity, like you said,

which is zero. But when you are talking about infinite lines, then

all points having equal probability doesn't seem so reasonable any

more, but that leaves you to answer the question: What probability do

you want to use instead?

There is a lot to learn here, and perhaps you shouldn't try to learn

it all now. After all, most mathematicians don't learn about these

kinds of things until college. But you'll learn about these kinds of

things as you learn more math. In the meantime, if you have any

questions about this or need more help, please write back, and I will

try to explain more.

From: Jack Joshi-Powell

Subject: Card games

of card games?

I've checked many books and Web sites, but they talk about strategy,

not math.

Date: 10/06/2000 at 12:49:13

From: Doctor TWE

Subject: Re: Card games

Exactly what kind of card games are you talking about? I can think of

at least three categories: games using standard playing cards (4 suits

of 13 cards each) or similar decks (like Bridge, Cribbage, Poker,

etc.); games that use card decks specific to that game (like Old Maid,

Quartet, Set, etc.); and the new "customizable" or "collectible" card

games (like Pokemon, Magic: the Gathering, etc.) Whichever type of

card game you are referring to, they use math in many of the same

ways.

(along with a little bit of psychology and physiology). Designers must

consider the size of the cards. Too large or too small, and the cards

are impractical to hold in one hand.

are rectangular with rounded corners, but what is a good height-to-

width ratio? Some games use other-shape cards, like square or round

cards, instead. Are these better or worse in terms of handling during

a game?

Then there's the symmetry of the cards. The faces of the cards in some

games (particularly the "customizable" card games) have no symmetry,

while others (particularly standard playing cards) have two-way or

near two-way symmetry, and yet others have four-fold symmetry. My wife

doesn't like playing with standard playing cards because she's

left-handed and the corner symbols on most playing card decks are

designed for right-handers. She spreads her card hand "backward" and

thus sees the blank corner instead of the card symbol. The card backs

are frequently symmetric geometric patterns as well.

and losing. In many games, the designer wants the probability of each

player winning (assuming equally good strategies) to be equal, or as

nearly equal as possible. But determining whether the first player has

an advantage or disadvantage is an exercise in probability. It would

not be a very interesting game if the first player could always win.

For casino games like Blackjack, the house has an advantage. But if

the advantage is too large, players won't play the game; they'd lose

their money too quickly. Of course, if the house doesn't have the

advantage, the casino loses money and will go out of business. So

determining the probability of winning is an important step in the

design of a game.

Determining the best playing strategy also involves math. Knowing how

to determine the probability of the occurrence of random events can

help a player determine the best strategy for winning. The play of

many card games also requires basic arithmetic skills. In many games,

you have to add or subtract points. (For example, in Blackjack you

need to add the values of your cards and subtract it from 21.) Some

card games, like Twenty-Four, require the players to do mathematical

computations as part of winning the hand. (In the game Twenty-Four,

each card has 4 numbers on it. The first player to be able to make an

expression that equals 24 using the 4 numbers and basic arithmetic

operations wins the card.) Some "customizable" card games also have a

"casting cost" or equivalent requirement before a card can be put into

play. The player must determine what combination of cards (s)he can

afford to play on each turn.

Most card games also require some form of scorekeeping from round to

round or hand to hand. This often just involves simple arithmetic, but

that is math as well.

I hope this gives you some ideas as to where to start. Perhaps you can

then explore these areas in more depth for the particular game or type

of card game you're interested in.

Date: 10/25/2002 at 12:16:52

From: Rae

Subject: Investigation of games of chance

Suppose we roll one six-sided die. What are the possible outcomes?

What is the probabiliy of rolling a 4?

If we have two dice how many outcomes are there? With two dice what is

the probability of rolling a 5?

the correct answer.

Thanks.

From: Doctor Achilles

Subject: Re: Investigation of games of chance

Hi Rae,

I like to think about these problems in terms of what I call the "ways

method" [Note: this is my own name for a common statistical device

that other people call other things.]

1

2

3

4

5

6

Step 2: List the number of equally likely ways that you can get each

outcome:

For 2, there is one way to get it (roll a 2)

For 3, there is one way to get it (roll a 3)

For 4, there is one way to get it (roll a 4)

For 5, there is one way to get it (roll a 5)

For 6, there is one way to get it (roll a 6)

1+1+1+1+1+1 = 6

ways you can get it divided by the total number of ways for all

outcomes.

So, for example, there is one way to get a 5 and there are 6 ways

total, so the probability of getting a 5 is equal to 1/6.

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

For 2: There is only one way: you have to roll a 1 on the first die

and a 1 on the second die.

For 3: There are two ways: you can roll a 1 on the first die and a 2

on the second or a 2 on the first die and a 1 on the second.

For 4: There are 3 ways: you can roll a 1 on the first die and a 3

on the second, or a 2 on the first die and a 2 on the second, or a

3 on the first die and a 1 on the second.

For 5: There are 4 ways: you can roll a 1 on the first die and a 4

on the second, or a 2 on the first and a 3 on the second, or a 3 on

the first and a 2 on the second, or a 4 on the first and a 1 on the

second.

For 6: There are 5 ways: you can roll a 1 on the first and a 5 on

the second, or a 2 on the first and a 4 on the second, or a 3 on the

first and a 3 on the second, or a 4 on the first and a 2 on the

second, or a 5 on the first and a 1 on the second.

For 7: There are 6 ways: you can roll a 1 on the first and a 6 on

the second, or a 2 on the first and a 5 on the second, or a 3 on the

first and a 4 on the second, or a 4 on the first and a 3 on the

second, or a 5 on the first and a 2 on the second, or a 6 on the first

and a 1 on the second.

For 8: There are 5 ways: you can roll a 2 on the first and a 6 on

the second, or a 3 on the first and a 5 on the second, or a 4 on the

first and a 4 on the second, or a 5 on the first and a 3 on the

second, or a 6 on the first and a 2 on the second.

For 9: There are 4 ways: you can roll a 3 on the first and a 6 on

the second, or a 4 on the first and a 5 on the second, or a 5 on the

first and a 4 on the second, or a 6 on the first and a 3 on the

second.

For 10: There are 3 ways: you can roll a 4 on the first and a 6 on

the second, or a 5 on the first and a 5 on the second, or a 6 on the

first and a 4 on the second.

For 11: There are 2 ways: you can roll a 5 on the first and a 6 on

the second or a 6 on the first and a 5 on the second.

To summarize:

2 has 1 way

3 has 2 ways

4 has 3 ways

5 has 4 ways

6 has 5 ways

7 has 6 ways

8 has 5 ways

9 has 4 ways

10 has 3 ways

11 has 2 ways

12 has 1 way

1+2+3+4+5+6+5+4+3+2+1 = 36

of ways for that outcome divided by the total number of ways (36).

3 has a probability of 2/36 = 1/18

4 has a probability of 3/36 = 1/12

5 has a probability of 4/36 = 1/9

6 has a probability of 5/36

7 has a probability of 6/36 = 1/6

8 has a probability of 5/36

9 has a probability of 1/9

10 has a probability of 1/12

11 has a probability of 1/18

12 has a probability of 1/36

How can we use this method to find the probability with 3 dice?

One thing to note: this method works for all probability calculations,

but it is not necessarily always the best. It assumes that each "way"

is EQUALLY likely (which is true for dice, as long as they aren't

weighted). You have to do some complicated adjustments if the "ways"

aren't equally likely.

change (for example, if events are not independent). For example, with

a deck of cards, the chances of getting a King of Spades in one card

is 1/52, but if you draw a card and it's not the King of Spades, then

your chances of getting the King of Spades in the second trial become

1/51. Again, this method can deal with that, but there may be others

that are more efficient.

I hope this helps. If you have other questions about this or you're

still stuck, please write back.

From: Tara Hage

Subject: Probability of even vs. odd sums

Hi Dr. Math,

My second-grade son asked a question of his math teacher and was not

satisfied with her answer. She taught the class that the sum of two

even numbers will be even, the sum of two odd numbers will be even,

and the sum of one odd and one even number will be odd.

He asked her, since there are more ways to achieve an even sum, is it

more likely that an addition problem will have an even answer? She

said, "No, it depends on the addends." He understands that it depends

on the specific problems he is given, but still feels that overall,

addition problems are more likely to have even answers.

true or not true?

Tara Hage

From: Doctor Anthony

Subject: Re: Probability of even vs. odd sums

You have to be a little careful here because you are dealing with

infinite sets. However, if we are limited to the set of numbers 1 to

100, there are 50 even numbers and 50 odd numbers.

We can choose 2 odd numbers in 50 x 50 = 2500 ways

We can choose 1 odd and 1 even in 50 x 50 = 2500 ways

We can choose 1 even and 1 odd in 50 x 50 = 2500 ways

The sum of the two numbers is even on 2 x 2500 = 5000 occasions. The

sum of the two numbers is odd on 2 x 2500 = 5000 occasions. So there

is no bias in favor of an even sum.

Date: 09/14/2004 at 12:17:07

From: Michael

Subject: What is the probablity

What is the probability of two different times within the same hour

ending in the same last digit? Like 08:13 and 08:43?

From: Doctor Edwin

Subject: Re: What is the probablity

Hi, Michael.

--------------------------------------

total # of ways things could turn out

is:

---------------------------------------

total # of ways the die could come up

or:

2

---

6

1/10 or 10%. Let's ignore everything but the last digit. If I pick a

number between zero and nine, and you do the same, the chance that you

picked the same number I did is 1/10. So if I pick a time at random,

and you pick a time at random, the chance that the last digits will

match is still 1/10.

First, it says that the times must be different. So we can't both

pick 8:13, for example. The other piece is that the two times must

fall within the same hour.

figure out how many ways we could have the same number at the end,

while picking DIFFERENT times in the same hour.

Suppose like in your example I pick 8:13. Now, how many ways can you

pick a time that ends with the same digit as mine?

8:03

8:13

8:23

8:33

8:43

8:53

but one of those is the same time I picked, and you're not allowed to

pick that one, so you're down to 5 possible ways to pick the time.

So your probability is

5

----------------------------------------

total # of times you could have picked

So how many times could you have picked? There are 60 minutes in an

hour, and you're not allowed to pick one of them. Can you figure out

the probability from there? Write back if you're stuck.

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

Date: 01/12/2003 at 12:31:51

From: Kita

Subject: Probability

Max has 5 coins in his pocket that total 47 cents. What is the

probability that he will reach into his pocket and pull out a dime,

and then without replacing it reach in and pull out a quarter?

A. 1/20

B. 1/10

C. 1/25

D. 2/25

Could it be 1/10?

From: Doctor Kastner

Subject: Re: Probability

Hi Kita -

Let's first think about the coins that Max has in his pocket. 5 coins,

47 cents. He has to have 2 pennies in order to make the 47, so that

takes care of two of the coins. Now we need to think how he could have

3 coins that make 45 cents. How could he get the 5 cents of the 45?

If he had a nickel, that would mean we need to get two coins to make

40 cents and that can't happen. Therefore, he has to have a quarter,

which leaves us with making 20 cents with two coins. That gives him

two dimes.

Now we can finish the problem off. He has two chances of pulling out a

dime from his five coins, and then he has 1 chance of pulling out a

quarter from the coins he has left. Remember that these probabilities

need to be multiplied together and you'll not only get your answer but

will be able to explain how you got there.

I hope this helps. Write back if you're still stuck, or if you have

other questions.

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

Probability of Divisibility

Date: 06/18/2002 at 19:19:18

From: Lisa Vinson

Subject: common fractions

is divisible by 5? Express your answer as a common fraction?

Date: 06/18/2002 at 20:45:19

From: Doctor Ian

Subject: Re: common fractions

Hi Lisa,

How many 3-digit numbers are there? Call that Q. (If you're not

sure how many there are, think about how many miles you could drive

when the odometer in your car reads between 100 and 999.)

How many of them are divisible by 5? Call that P. (If you're not

sure how many there are, start listing them. You should quickly see

a pattern.)

P/Q.

Date: 01/05/2008 at 17:36:37

From: Alfredo

Subject: Probability vs. Odds Ratio

probability?

confuses me how to interpret results. For example if you get a high

probability, say 80%, most likely the outcome of the odds ratio is

greater than 1, which is, as I understand it, interpreted as a higher

chance of occurrence. So I am confused if there is a significant

difference between probability and odds ratio.

between the 2 measures of chances. I do understand that probability

is occurrence/whole while odds ratio is occurrence/non-occurrence.

But i see no difference in their interpretation. It just makes me

wonder if I am understanding the subject matter correctly or not.

Hope you could help me on this.

From: Doctor Peterson

Subject: Re: Probability vs. Odds Ratio

Hi, Alfredo.

You know the definitions, but I'm not sure what more you mean by

"interpretation". Let's look at a simple example and explore the

differences; then you can tell me whether I've shown that the sort of

interpretation you have in mind is indeed different.

Suppose I roll one die, and consider whether I roll a six. I can

describe this event in three ways:

ways to succeed 1

Probability of six = --------------- = ---

total outcomes 6

ways to succeed 1

Odds in favor of six = --------------- = --- = 1:5

ways to fail 5

ways to fail 5

Odds against six = --------------- = --- = 5:1

ways to succeed 1

fraction; probability is expressed as a fraction, decimal, or

percentage. I should also add that the "ways" I'm talking about have

to be equally likely, as they are here with a fair die.)

Probability tells you what fraction of the time you can expect an

event to occur; you will roll a 6 about 1/6 of the time. This is

never greater than 1, but the higher it is, the more probable the

event is, with a probability of 1 representing (virtual) certainty,

and 0 representing (virtual) impossibility.

Odds tells you the ratio of time the event occurs to the time it

doesn't (or vice versa); you roll a 6 once for every 5 times you roll

something else (in the long run). Odds can be any (positive) ratio at

all, from 0:1 to 1:0. Something that never happens will have odds of

0:1 in favor, and something that always happens will have odds of 1:0

in favor (0:1 against), though we never express these cases as odds!

Odds of 1:1 are "fifty-fifty", equally like to occur or not; this

corresponds to 50% probability.

theory largely arose; the idea is that a bet in that ratio is fair.

If I bet $1 to your $5 that I will roll a 6, I will come out even in

the long run. Probability is easier to work with mathematically but

harder to apply to gambling. That's why we have two different ways to

express the concept.

I imagine your confusion lies in the fact that both probability and

odds in favor are higher when something is more likely, so they sound

at first like the same thing. But the meaning of "high" in each case

is different: a probability of 9/10 is pretty high, but odds of 9:10

are not high at all! In fact, in the latter case, you are less likely

to succeed than to fail. The odds corresponding to a 9/10 probability

would be 9:1. Now THAT'S a likely event!

Penny Toss

From: Dave Kugelstadt

Subject: Penny Toss

My son is in the 7th grade. I try to help him grasp the concepts of

advanced math because I believe that a firm understanding of math will

do a great deal to advance his quality of life, as it has mine.

Usually I am very good but I am not quite sure about this one. His

"Problem of the week 6" goes as follows...

"Three people each toss a penny at the same time. What is the

probability that two people get the same side of the penny and the

other person gets the opposite side?"

reasoned that there are only two possible combinations, all of them

get the same side or two of them get one side and one gets the other.

With this I decided that once I determined the odds of all getting the

same side I could subtract that from 100% to get the chances of any

two getting the same side. Assuming all else is equal, there is a 1/2

chance that any one person gets any one particular side. Since there

are three people I calculated .5 x .5 x .5 = .125 or 12.5% chance that

all would get the same side. That leaves 87.5% chance that any two

people would get the same side if all three tossed their pennies at

the same time (or even not at the same time, I suppose).

is sound.

Thanks,

Dave K.

From: Doctor Tom

Subject: Re: Penny Toss

If there are only 3 pennies, it's easy just to list the possibilities:

HHH

HHT

HTH

HTT

THH

THT

TTH

TTT

where the first column represents the result for the first person,

etc. So there are 8 equally likely ways the experiment can come out,

6 of which have two faces the same. Thus the probability is 6/8 = 75%.

You were on the right track, but the .5*.5*.5 is the probability that

all three throw heads (and also the probability that all three throw

tails). So there is a 12.5% chance that all three throw heads, a 12.5%

chance that all throw tails, and hence, a 100% - 12.5% - 12.5% = 75%

chance that all three flips aren't the same.

I don't know if your kid knows about combinations (like "6 choose 2"

- the number of ways of picking 2 things from a set of 6), but if

so, that's a good way to work it.

outcomes, and the favorable outcomes are if there is 1 head of the

three or 2 heads. (If there are 0 or 3 heads, it's an unfavorable

outcome.) The number of favorable outcomes is thus

or a probability of 6/8, or 75%.

complex problems, but you have to know how to count combinations.

For example, if the problem were, "7 people flip 1 penny each. What is

the probability that there are at least 4 heads tossed?"

favorable outcomes.

a probability of 64/128, or 1/2.

Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

From: Doctor Anthony

Subject: Re: Penny Toss

one and one of the other. This would be either HHH or TTT

Check out our web site! http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

Most Frequently Rolled Number

From: Zoe Nesbitt

Subject: Determining odds

If I had two dice each with the following numbers on them: -3, -2,

-1, 0, 1, and 2, and rolled them 100 times, what sum would be rolled

most often and why? Can you help?

From: Doctor Ian

Subject: Re: Determining odds

Hi Zoe,

Let's look at the case for regular dice, numbered 1-6. Here are the possible

sums:

second

die

+ 1 2 3 4 5 6

------------------

1 | 2 3 4 5 6 7

2 | 3 4 5 6 7 8

first 3 | 4 5 6 7 8 9

die 4 | 5 6 7 8 9 10

5 | 6 7 8 9 10 11

6 | 7 8 9 10 11 12

Sum Appears

--- -------

2 1 time

3 2 times

4 3 times

5 4 times

6 5 times

7 6 times

8 5 times

9 4 times

10 3 times

11 2 times

12 1 time

Now, suppose you had 36 balls, and you marked them this way:

---- ---------------

2 1

3 2

4 3

5 4

6 5

7 6

8 5

9 4

10 3

11 2

12 1

Put the balls in a hat, and draw one out. Toss it back in, and draw one out

again. If you keep doing this, which mark would you expect to draw most

often?

Do you see why the problem with the dice and the problem with the balls are

really just two versions of the same problem? Can you see how this relates

to _your_ problem?

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

From: Kristine Pj

Subject: Pie graphs and probability

From: Doctor Ian

Subject: Re: Pie graphs and probability

Hi Kristine,

A pie graph or pie chart tells you what fraction of the time something

happened, or is expected to happen, and that's what probability tells

you, too. In fact, a pie graph is just a way of drawing probabilities

instead of writing them down using numbers.

For example, suppose a pie graph has three areas, with people who will

vote for Gore (41%), people who will vote for Bush (44%), and people

who will vote for someone else (11%).

marked 'Bush', and 11 marked 'other'.

So the probability that you'll pull a 'Bush' ball out of the jar is

44/100.

I hope this helps. Write back if I didn't quite answer your question,

or if you have other questions.

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

Popsicle Probability

Date: 02/27/2003 at 19:22:41

From: Ashley

Subject: Probability/Combinations

children. What is the probability that all 4 children will get the

flavor of their choice?

that answer and why. We know that the first child has a 9/9 chance,

the second 8/8, the third 7/7, and the forth 6/9 (2/3). We also know

that there are 126 different combinations of chidren and popsicles.

From: Doctor Douglas

Subject: Re: Probability/Combinations

Hi, Ashley,

there are 3x3x3x3 = 81 possibilities for what the kids want (we assume

that each kid does in fact want one of the three flavors: orange,

cherry, or grape).

unhappy: OOOO, CCCC, and GGGG (i.e., when all four of them want the

same flavor as the others). For all of the other possibilities (e.g.

OOCG, OOOC, OOCC,...) there are going to be enough popsicles of the

required flavors.

= 1 - 3/81

= 1 - 1/27

= 26/27

A supply of four of each flavor would have guaranteed four happy kids,

but a supply of three of each flavor works in almost all (96%) of the

cases.

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

Probability of Getting your Hat Back

From: chris mcmaken

Subject: Hat probability

There are 5 people with 5 hats. The hats are put into a box.

What is the probability that each person will get his or her hat?

From: Doctor Charles

Subject: Re: Hat probability

The probability that the first person will get the right hat is

1/5. Now there are four people and four hats so the probability

that the second person gets their own hat is 1/4. Similarly for

the third and fourth people. Of course, if the first four people

all get the correct hat then the last person must get the right

hat too as it is the only one left.

multiplying all these together.

called the factorial function and is written n! . In general n! is

the number of ways of placing n objects in a row. So if we had n

people with n hats then the probability would be 1/(n!).

Probability Problem

From: Anonymous

Subject: Probability

6th grade math problem: There's a box with 12 letters, one of which is a D,

and 2 are E's. I know that the probability of getting a D is therefore 1 out

of 12, and an E is 1 out of 6. However, how do I determine the probability

of getting a D and then an E, if the D is replaced after being selected?

From: Dr. Ken

Subject: Re: probability

Hello there!

You can find out how many different favorable possibilities there are for

drawing, and then divide that by the total number of possibilities for

drawing. In this case, there are 2 different ways you can get a D and then

an E. You can draw the D and then the first E, or you can draw the D and

then the other E.

Now how many different ways are there you can draw 2 letters from the bag?

Well, since there are 12 possibilities for each draw, there are 12x12 = 144

possibilities. So the probability we get a D and then an E is 2/144, or

1 out of 72. Thanks for the question!

-Ken

From: Anonymous

Subject: Question

I took recently.

each homeroom. If the principal selects 5 of the homerooms for a

pizza party, what is the probability of Mr. Smith's homeroom being

selected?

Can you help me? I feel the answer is a. 1/3, but why is it not

1/15 * 14 * 1/13 * 1/12 * 1/11? And is this a way to find the

probability of anything, and if so what would the question be?

From: Doctor Aaron

Subject: Re: Question

probability is 1/3. You could be thinking about several things by

the multiplication 1/15 * 1/14 * 1/13 * 1/12 * 1/11. One

probability question that this would answer is:

in a specific order? The first time (s)he must pick one room out

of 15, then out of 14, and so on, so the probability of the

principal picking all 5 rooms in order is the product of the

probability of picking each room individually, i.e.,

1/15 * 1/14 * 1/13 * 1/12 * 1/11.

principal picking 5 specific rooms in no particular order. In this

case, the probability is that of picking one of the five out of a

total of 15, times picking one of the remaining four out of the

remaining total of 14, etc. This is (5 * 4 * 3 * 2 * 1)/(15 * 14 *

13 * 12 * 11), an equation of the form: 1/(n!/k!(n-k)!) (where a!

= a * a-1 * a-2 * .... * 3 * 2 * 1), which comes up a lot in

probability and other areas of math.

k)! is n choose k, meaning that this represents the number of

different combinations of n elements taken k at a time. Here's an

example:If we let n = 5 and k = 3, we can think of how many

different ways can we take 3 elements from the set {1,2,3,4,5}.

We have(1,2,3), (1,2,4), (1,2,5) ... if we write all of them out,

we'll have

So, had the principal chosen 5 rooms out of 15, (s)he would have

had 15 choose 5 choices, from which (s)he chose 1. Then the

probability of choosing that 1 set of five rooms would be

1/(15 choose 5) = (5 * 4 * 3 * 2 * 1)/(15 * 14 * 13 * 12 * 11).

Date: 11/04/2009 at 07:53:02

From: Sepha

Subject: Probabilities divisible by three

In how many ways can you choose three numbers from 1-100 whose sum is

divisible by three?

like finding all the numbers divisible by three, like 3, 6, 9 and 12,

etc. and seeing what three numbers can add up to them.

From: Doctor Ian

Subject: Re: Probabilities divisible by three

Hi Sepha,

I'd probably start thinking about ways that I could just look at three

numbers, and see if the sum will be divisible by 3.

For example, as you've noted, if you choose all three numbers that are

individually divisible by 3, the sum will also be divisible by 3.

What if you choose two numbers that are divisible by 3, and a third

that is not? Try some examples, and convince yourself that this won't

work.

What about two numbers that aren't divisible by 3? Well, this CAN

work, but only if one is 1 less than a multiple of 3, and the other is

1 more than a multiple of 3.

divisible by 3. What can happen then? I'll leave that for you to

think about.

Now, suppose we have 100 balls, marked with the numbers from 1 to 100.

We color all the multiples of 3 green: 3, 6, 9, 12, ... 99.

The balls whose numbers are 1 MORE than a multiple of 3 are colored

blue: 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, ..., 100. (Recall that 0 is a multiple of 3,

which is why 1 goes in this group.)

The remaining balls must have numbers that are 1 LESS than a multiple

of 3: 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, ..., 98. We can color them red.

So now, every number has a color, right? If you can figure out which

color combinations will give you a multiple of 3, then your problem

becomes one about selecting colored balls out of a jar... which is

probably more like the problems you've dealt with in the past, right?

http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

From: Sepha

Subject: Thank you (Probabilities divisible by three)

Thank you very much for your help! I was expecting that I would just

get an answer, but now that you've explained it, I know how to

actually do it! Thank you!

From: Philip Carter

Subject: Probabilities

to the three problems below:

1. A woman has two children. What are the odds that both are boys?

2. Charlie hits the target 80 times in 100 shots. Jim hits the target

90 times in 100 shots. What are the chances that the target will be

hit if each fires once?

with their cargoes ruined. If two boats arrived, what was the

probability that both cargoes were ruined?

Philip Carter

From: Doctor Paul

Subject: Re: Probabilities

50% / \ 50%

boy girl

boy girl boy girl

To find the odds, just multiply across the path that leads to two

boys:

Had you wanted to know the odds of a boy and a girl, you would have

multiplied across the path that leads to a boy and a girl and then add

that to the path that leads to a girl and then a boy. They both

satisfy the criteria so you add them.

first.

80%/ \20%

hits misses

hits misses hits misses

if it is hit and then hit again, that counts; if it is hit and then

missed, that counts; if it is missed and then hit, that counts; if

both miss it, that doesn't count... so let's multiply along the first

three branches and then add:

(.8 * .9) + (.8 * .1) + (.2 * .9) = .72 + .08 + .18 = .98,

or 98 percent. Pretty good odds, eh?

98%/ \2%

good bad

good bad good bad

I hope this helps you out. These problems are easy if you use tree

diagrams!

Regards,

Check out our web site! http://ma

From: Sandra Jordan

Subject: probability

Find the probability that the card is a king and a club.

I know there is 13/52 clubs and 4/52 kings, and 1 of the kings shares

the club, so that would make 12/52 clubs, and 3/52 kings, and 1/52

king of clubs.

From: Doctor Sam

Subject: Re: probability

Sandra,

I think you're making the problem harder than it needs to be. There

is only one king of clubs in an ordinary deck. So the probability of

picking it is 1/52.

A more difficult problem (which you are well on your way to solving)

is to find the probability that the card you pick is either a king OR

a club. Now the probability is 16/52.

You can get this answer the hard way, by listing all possibilities:

the kings: of hearts, of spades, of diamonds

But there might have been too many possibilities to list. Your method

can be used to answer this question. Many people get this question

WRONG by assuming that

P(king OR club) = P(king) + P(club)

= 4/52 + 13/52.

But this counts the king of clubs twice: once as a king and once as a

club. The correct method is to subtract the extra time this counts the

king of clubs:

= 4/52 + 13/52 - 1/52

= 16/52.

Check out our web site http://mathforum.org/dr.math/

From: Jennifer

Subject: Probability word problem

I can't figure out how to solve it.

Describe an outcome of rolling the cube that has a probability of 3/6.

From: Doctor Twe

Subject: Re: Probability word problem

Here are several examples:

- rolling a multiple of 6

- rolling an even number

- rolling a 3, 12, or 15

- rolling a number, which when divided by 3, yields a prime number

3/6, but I hope that these examples clarify what is meant.

I hope this helps. If you have any more questions, write back.

http://mathforum.com/dr.math/

Socks

From: Anonymous

Subject: Socks

The room is dark and he cannot turn on the light. What is

the least number of socks he must take out of the drawer to

be certain of each of the following conditions?

b. He has a pair of the blue socks

c. He has a pair of gray socks.

d. He has one pair of each color.

Thank you.

From: Doctor Mike

Subject: Re: Socks

then the third will match one of the first two.

Least number = 14, because the worst case is he will pick all

the grey ones on the first 12 tries, and then he is guaranteed

that the next two will be blue.

Least number = 12, because the worst case is he will pick all

the blue ones of the first 10 tries, and then he is guaranteed

that the next two will be grey.

He could go for 12 tries and get only grey, and then the next

two would be blue. If you select 14 of them to take care of

this worst case scenario, then all the other situations would

be taken care of also.

Another answer would be to pick your socks out the previous evening

when you could turn the lights on, in which case the first three

answers would be 2 and the answer to d would be 4 (unless you are

color-blind).

Probability Theory

Directions: Read each question below. Select your answer by clicking on its button.

Feedback to your answer is provided in the RESULTS BOX. If you make a mistake, choose

a different button. For some problems, the answers have been rounded to the nearest

percent.

are tossed?

Top of Form

{H, T, H, T}

{H, T}

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

honor roll. What is the probability that a student does

not make honor roll?

Top of Form

65%

40%

60%

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

5 bananas. If a piece of fruit is chosen at random, what

is the probability of getting an orange or a banana?

Top of Form

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

getting a sum of 2?

Top of Form

None of the above.

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

Five are A students, and three of these students are

girls. If a student is chosen at random, what is the

probability of choosing a girl or an A student?

Top of Form

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

while driving. If two people are chosen at random, what

is the probability that both of them wear a seat belt?

Top of Form

86%

18%

57%

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

replacement. What is the probability of getting a jack, a

ten and a nine?

Top of Form

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

time job. The same survey found that 78% plan to

attend college. If a teenager is chosen at random, what is

the probability that the teenager has a part time job and

plans to attend college?

Top of Form

60%

63%

37%

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

classes, and 67% take drama class. What is the

probability that a student takes computer class given

that the student takes drama class?

Top of Form

81%

21%

53%

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

person buys two televisions from that shipment, what is

the probability that both are defective?

Top of Form

None of the above.

RESULTS BOX:

Bottom of Form

Problem : If a dice is rolled once, what is the probability that it will show an even

number? An odd number?

Problems

Problem : If a dice is rolled once, what is the probability that it will show an even number? An

odd number?

Solution for Problem 1 >>

,

Close

Problem : If a dice is rolled once, what is the probability that it will show a prime number ( 1 is

not prime)?

Solution for Problem 2 >>

Close

Problem : If a dice is rolled once, what is the probability that it will show a multiple of 3 ?

Solution for Problem 3 >>

Close

Problem : If a dice is rolled once, what is the probability that it will show a multiple of 1 ? A

multiple of 7 ?

Solution for Problem 4 >>

1,0

Close

Problem : If a coin is flipped twice, what is the probability that it will land heads once and tails

once?

Solution for Problem 5 >>

Close

Problem : If a coin is flipped twice, what is the probability that it will land heads at least once?

Solution for Problem 6 >>

Close

Complementary Events

Two events are said to be complementary when one event occurs if and only if the other does

not. The probabilities of two complimentary events add up to 1 .

For example, rolling a 5 or greater and rolling a 4 or less on a die are complementary events,

because a roll is 5 or greater if and only if it is not 4 or less. The probability of rolling a 5 or

greater is = , and the probability of rolling a 4 or less is = . Thus, the total of their

probabilities is + = =1.

Odds

The odds of an event is the ratio of the probability of an event to the probability of its

complement. In other words, it is the ratio of favorable outcomes to unfavorable outcomes. We

say the odds are "3 to 2," which means 3 favorable outcomes to every 2 unfavorable outcomes,

and we write 3 : 2 . For example, the odds of rolling a 5 or greater are 2 : 4 , which reduces to 1 :

2.

Example 1: If we flip a coin two times, what are the odds for it landing heads at least once?

Unfavorable outcomes: 1 -- TT.

Example 2: If the probability of an event happening is , what are the odds for that event?

Example 3. If the odds for an event are 3 : 2 , what is the probability of the event happening?

Favorable outcomes = 3 .

Probability

Probability is the branch of mathematics that studies the possible outcomes of given events

together with the outcomes' relative likelihoods and distributions. In common usage, the word

"probability" is used to mean the chance that a particular event (or set of events) will occur

expressed on a linear scale from 0 (impossibility) to 1 (certainty), also expressed as a percentage

between 0 and 100%. The analysis of events governed by probability is called statistics.

There are several competing interpretations of the actual "meaning" of probabilities. Frequentists

view probability simply as a measure of the frequency of outcomes (the more conventional

interpretation), while Bayesians treat probability more subjectively as a statistical procedure that

endeavors to estimate parameters of an underlying distribution based on the observed

distribution.

A properly normalized function that assigns a probability "density" to each possible outcome

within some interval is called a probability density function (or probability distribution function),

and its cumulative value (integral for a continuous distribution or sum for a discrete distribution)

is called a distribution function (or cumulative distribution function).

A variate is defined as the set of all random variables that obey a given probabilistic law. It is

common practice to denote a variate with a capital letter (most commonly ). The set of all

values that can take is then called the range, denoted (Evans et al. 2000, p. 5). Specific

elements in the range of are called quantiles and denoted , and the probability that a variate

assumes the element is denoted .

Probabilities are defined to obey certain assumptions, called the probability axioms. Let a sample

(1

)

and let and denote subsets of . Further, let be the complement of , so that

(2

)

(3

)

(4

)

(5

)

(6

)

(7

)

(8

)

Alice and Bob play a fair game repeatedly for one nickel each game. If originally

Alice has a nickels and Bob has b nickels, what is Alice's chances of winning all of

Bob's money, assuming the play goes on until one person has lost all her or his

money?

Let denote the conditional probability of given that has already occurred, then

(9)

(1

0)

(1

1)

(1

2)

(1

3)

(1

4)

The relationship

(1

5)

holds if and are independent events. A very important result states that

(1

6)

which can be generalized to

Let p(n) be Alice's chances of winning the total amount of a + b, provided she has n nickels in

her possession. Obviously p(0) = 0. If she is left with a non-zero capital, Alice may, at every

trial, win or lose one nickel, both with the probability of 1/2,

p(n) = p(n + 1)/2 + p(n - 1)/2, n > 0.

In other words, 2p(n) = p(n + 1) + p(n - 1), or p(n + 1) - p(n) = p(n) - p(n - 1). From here,

recursively,

p(n + 1) - p(n) = p(n) - p(n - 1)

= p(n - 1) - p(n - 2)

= p(n - 2) - p(n - 3)

...

= p(2) - p(1)

= p(1) - p(0)

= p(1).

It follows that p(n) = n p(1) and, since, p(a + b) = 1, p(1) = 1 / (a + b). It follows that p(a) = a /

(a + b).

References

1. E. J. Barbeau, M. S. Klamkin, W. O. J. Moser, Five Hundred Mathematical Challenges,

MAA, 1995, #494

Problems

Solution for Problem 1 >>

Close

Problem : What is the probability of an event if its complement is impossible (has probability

0 )?

Solution for Problem 2 >>

1

Close

Solution for Problem 3 >>

Close

Problem : If a coin is flipped three times, the probability and getting all heads is . What is the

probability of getting tails at least once?

Solution for Problem 4 >>

Close

Problem : When flipping a coin, what are the odds for getting heads?

Solution for Problem 5 >>

1:1

Close

Problem : Paul has 1 green shirt, 5 red shirts, and 9 striped shirts. He randomly draws one out of

his drawer.

b) What are the odds for the shirt being red?

c) What are the odds for the shirt being striped?

d) What are the odds for the shirt not being striped?

Solution for Problem 6 >>

a) 1 : 14

b) 5 : 10 , or 1 : 2

c) 9 : 6 , or 3 : 2

d) 6 : 9 , or 2 : 3

Close

b) What is the probability that the shirt is red?

c) What is the probability that the shirt is striped?

d) What is the probability that the shirt is not striped?

Solution for Problem 7 >>

a)

b)

c)

d)

Close

Problem : If the probability of an event is , what are the odds for the event? The odds against

it (the odds for its complement)?

Solution for Problem 8 >>

7:5,5:7

Close

Problem : If the odds for an event are 4 : 5 , what is the probability of the event? Of its

complement?

Solution for Problem 9 >>

,

Close

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