# Combinatorics: The Fine Art of Counting

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1 Combinatorics: The Fine Art of Counting Week 6 Lecture Notes Discrete Probability Note Binomial coefficients are written horizontally. The symbol ~ is used to mean approximately equal. Introduction and Definitions Probability is often considered a confusing topic. There are three primary sources of this confusion: (1) failure to use precise definitions, (2) improper intuition, (3) counting mistakes. Being adept counters at this point, we will hopefully avoid (3). Instances of (2) generally involve mistaken assumptions about randomness (e.g. the various Gambler s fallacies ) or underestimations of the likelihood of streaks or coincidences. The best way to avoid falling prey to improper intuition is to not to rely on intuition, but rather to compute probabilities carefully and rigorously. With experience, your intuition will become more trustworthy. This leads us to addressing (1). We will begin with some definitions that may seem overly formal at first, but they will prove to be extremely useful. After you have used them to solve several problems they will become second nature. We won t always explicitly mention all these details every time we solve a particular problem, but anytime we are uncertain about the correctness of a given approach, we will be able to fall back on our precise definitions. Definition: A sample space U is a set whose elements are called sample points. Sample points typically represent a complete description of an experimental outcome. For example if a coin is flipped 3 times, a particular sample point might be the sequence THH. In this case U would be the set of all such sequences { TTT, TTH, THT, THH, HTT, HTH, HHT, HHH } In another situation, a sample point might be a sequence of five cards selected from a deck of 52 cards, e.g. (5,A,3,J,5 ), and U would be the set of all such sequences 52*51*50*49*48 of them. Alternatively, if we don t care to distinguish the order in which the cards were drawn, we might instead choose to make our sample points subsets of five cards, in which case U would be the set of all such subsets - (52 5) of them. When solving a particular problem we often have some flexibility in defining the sample space (as in the second example above). Our choice of sample space will generally be guided by the following criteria: 1. The sample space should capture all of the information necessary to analyze the problem. If we are analyzing a situation where several different things are happening, we want each sample point to contain a record of everything that happened. 2. We want the sample space to be as simple as possible. We may choose to ignore information which is not needed to solve the problem (e.g. ignoring order), however 3. We want the probabilities to be easy to compute. This typically means that we will want to make the sample space to be as uniform as possible. This may mean including more information than is strictly necessary to solve the problem (e.g. labeling otherwise indistinguishable objects). 1

3 coin or not we don t expect the coin to change its probabilistic behavior from one toss to the next even if it is biased in general. Note that independent events are not disjoint (unless one of them has probability zero). Consider the example of coin flips above where A B = { HTH, HHH }. The best way to think about independent events is to imagine if we restricted our sample space to consist of only events inside of A (i.e. assume that the first flip was heads and now just look at the next two flips) and adjusted our probability measure appropriately. If we now look at B inside this new sample space, it will correspond to the event A B and its probability in this new space will be the same as the probability of B in the original space. Getting a head on the first toss doesn t change the probability of getting a head on the third toss. These ideas will be made more concrete when we discuss conditional probability. There are two key things to keep in mind when computing probabilities: Not all events are independent - this means we can t always multiply probabilities to determine the probability of the intersection of two events. Not all events are disjoint this means we can t always add probabilities to determine the probability of the union of two events. These facts may both seem completely obvious at this point, but most of the mistakes made in computing probabilities amount to mistakenly assuming that two events are independent or that two events are disjoint. In the happy situation where two events are independent, we can easily compute the probability of both their intersection (just multiply) and their union, since for independent events (3) above simplifies to: P(A B) = P(A) + P(B) - P(A)P(B) Computing Probabilities for independent events A and B It may seem like we haven t really gotten anywhere with all these definitions. We have to define the probability measure P for all events, but this includes the event whose probability we don t know and are trying to figure out! The key idea is to define P for a particularly simple collection of elementary events whose probability is easy to determine. We then define P for the intersection of any collection of elementary events (in most cases this will be trivial since the elementary events will either be disjoint or independent). Once we have defined P in this way, its value for any event formed using a combination of unions, intersections, and complements of elementary events can be determined by the axioms and properties of a probability measure. The simplest example of a probability measure is the uniform probability measure defined on a finite sample space U. In this situation our elementary events will contain a single sample point and have probability 1/ U. The intersection of any two elementary events is the empty set which has probability zero. Since any event A is simply the union of some collection of A disjoint elementary events (one for each element of A), we can compute the probability of A by simply adding up the probability of the elementary events it contains, resulting in: P(A) = A / U uniform probability measure on a finite sample space We have already seen many examples that fall into this category. In these cases, once the sample space has been properly specified, computing probabilities is simply a matter of counting two sets (the event we are interested in, and the whole sample space) and then computing their ratio. However if the set in question is not easy to count directly, it may be simpler to use some of the properties and axioms defined above to compute its probability (this effectively gives us another way to count the set A, assuming we know the size of U). Problem #1: If a six-sided die is rolled six times, what is the probability of rolling at least one six? 3

4 Solution #1: Our sample space will be all sequences of six integers in the set [6] = {1,2,,6} and since we assume each sequence is equally likely, we will use the uniform probability measure. If we let A be the event of rolling at least one six, and let B i be the event of rolling a six on the i th roll. We see that A = B 1 U B 2 U B 3 U B 4 U B 5 U BB6. We can easily compute P(B i ) = 1/6, but since the B ib are not disjoint we can t simply add their probabilities. Instead we will note that the complement of A is equal to the intersection of the complements of each of the B i s, i.e. the event of not rolling any sixes is equal to the event of not rolling a six on the first roll, nor the second roll, and so on. Thus A c = B c BB2c B c 3 B c 4 B c 5 B c 6. The events B c i are all c independent, so we can multiply their probabilities to compute the probability of A and then A. 6 Putting this all together we obtain P(A) = 1 (1-1/6) ~ We could have defined the uniform probability measure in the example above in two different ways, either by defining 6 6 elementary events that each contain a single sequence and assigning them each the probability 1/6 6, or by defining 6*6 elementary events, each of which corresponds to rolling a particular number on a particular roll and has probability1/6 (e.g. the third roll is a 2). In the second case, the elementary events are all either independent (if they correspond to different rolls) or disjoint (if they correspond to the same roll), so the probability of the intersection of any of them is easily computed. Both definitions result in the same probability measure since any particular sequence of rolls is the intersection of six events which specify the result of each roll. Alternatively, we could have chosen a much smaller sample space, e.g. one with just 7 sample points each representing the number of sixes rolled and singleton elementary events for each sample point, but this would not have been very helpful because we would have to compute the probability of the problem we were trying to solve just to define our probability measure. Using a simpler probability measure on a larger sample space gives us a better starting point. Problem #2: If three (not necessarily distinct) integers in [10] = {1,2,,10} are randomly chosen and multiplied together, what is the probability that their product is even? Solution #2: Our sample space is all sequences of three integers in [10] using the uniform probability measure Note that this sample space is essentially the same as the one in example #1, except we have three 10-sided dice. The event we are interested in is the complement of the event that the product is odd, which is the intersection of the events that each particular number is odd. These events are independent, so we can compute the probability of their intersection by multiplying. The probability that a particular number is odd is 5/10 = 1/2, so the desired probability is 1 (1/2) 3 = 7/8. Problem #3: If three distinct integers in [10] are randomly chosen and multiplied together, what is the probability that their product is even? Solution #3: Applying the same approach as in example #2, our sample space is now all sequences of three distinct integers in [10]. We can define all the same events we used in #2, but in this situation computing the intersection of the events that each digit is odd is more difficult because these events are no longer independent. We will see later how to analyze this situation using conditional probability, but for the moment we will simply count the event that all three numbers are odd directly there are 5*4*3 sequences of distinct odd numbers between 1 and 10 and 10*9*8 sequences in all, so the desired probability is 1 5*4*3/(10*9*8) = 11/12. A simpler approach to problem #2 is to notice that the product of the three numbers does not depend on the order in which they are chosen. If we ignore order we can take our sample space to be all subsets of [10] of size 3 with the uniform probability measure. The event that all three numbers are odd consist of subsets {1,3,5,7,8} of size 3. The desired probability is then given by 1 (5 3) / (10 3) = 1 1/12 = 11/12. Problems #2 and #3 above show the distinction between sampling with or without replacement. Sampling with replacement corresponds to drawing a sequence of objects out of a bag, where each object drawn is replaced before drawing the next. Examples of sampling with replacement 4

5 include rolling a die, performing multiple trials of an experiment, or even flipping a coin (think of a bag holding cards labeled heads and tails). Sampling without replacement corresponds to drawing a sequence of objects out of a bag without replacing the object drawn before drawing the next. Consider a bag containing the set of objects {x, y, z, } (these could be names, numbers, colored marbles, whatever ) we then define our sample space as the set of all possible sequences of objects that could be drawn, and then define elementary events X i to correspond to a sequence in which the object x was drawn in the i th step. The key distinction between sampling with and without replacement is that if j > i: When sampling with replacement, the events X i and Y j are independent When sampling without replacement the events X i and Y j are not independent. The second fact is easy to see when X=Y since we can t draw the same object twice so P(X i X j ) = 0, but P(X i )P(X j ) > 0. When X Y, the fact that Y was not drawn on the ith step (since X was) effectively increases the probability that it will be drawn on the jth step. Consider the case of just two objects: when sampling without replacement there are only two possible sequences, and P(X 1 ) and P(Y 2 ) are both ½, but P(X 1 Y 2 ) = ½ which is not equal to P(X 1 )P(Y 2 ) = ¼. Problem #4: Two balls are drawn from an urn containing 5 black and 5 white balls. What is the probability that two black balls are drawn? What is the probability that two balls of different color are drawn? Solution #4: If we were sampling with replacement the answers would clearly be ¼ and ½. However, the wording of the problem implies we are sampling without replacement. To analyze this problem we will consider the balls to be distinct (we can always label indistinguishable objects and then peel the labels off later if need be). Since the order in which the balls are drawn does not matter, we will ignore order and just consider drawing subsets of two balls. Our sample space is all subsets of two balls drawn from a set of 10 balls with the uniform probability measure. The probability the first event is (5 2) / (10 2) = 2/9 and the probability of the second event is equal to (5 1)*(5 1) / (10 2) = 5/9. Note how the probabilities in the example above differ from sampling with replacement. Problem #5: Balls are drawn from an urn containing 6 black balls and 5 white balls until all the black balls have been drawn. What is the probability that the urn is empty at this point? Solution #5: This is clearly sampling without replacement. Since we don t know for sure how many balls will be drawn, we will take our sample space to be all possible sequences of drawing all 11 balls out of the urn (we could always just keep going after the last black ball was drawn) with the uniform probability measure. Each sequence corresponds to a string of 6 B s and 5 W s. The event we are interested in corresponds to the event that the last ball drawn is black, i.e. all sequences that end in B. We can easily count these and divide by the size of the sample space obtaining (10 5) / (11 5) = 6/11. A simpler approach is to note that the number of sequences that end in B is the same as the number of sequences that start with B, and the probability that the first ball drawn is black is clearly 6/11. Problem #6: Two cards are drawn from a standard deck of 52. What is the probability that the first card is the ace of diamonds and the second card is a spade? Solution #6: This is another example of sampling without replacement. Our sample space is all sequences of two distinct cards (ordered pairs) with the uniform probability measure. The probability that the first card is the ace of diamonds is clearly 1/52, and the probability that the second card is a spade is 13/52 = 1/4, however these events aren t necessarily independent so we can t just multiply the probabilities together. Instead we must count the sequences which have the ace of diamonds in the first position and a spade in the second there are 13 of these. The size of the sample space is 52*51, so the probability is 13/(52*51) = 1/204 which is not equal to (1/4) * (1/52) = 1/208 so the events are not independent as we suspected. If this solution appeared a bit clumsy, it is. We will see a simpler solution using conditional probability. 5

9 Problem #11: There are three two-sided cards, one is blue on both sides, one is red on both sides, and is red on one side and blue on the other. You are shown one side of one card selected at random and it is red. What is the probability that the other side is also red? Solution #11: Label the card with two blue sides 1, and label one side front and the other back, label the card with two red sides 2 and label the sides similarly, and label the third card 3 with the red side labeled front and the blue side labeled back. Our sample space will be all sequences of two values, the first a number from 1 to 3 indicating the card chosen, and the second an f or a b indicating the side shown. Let A be the event that a red side is shown, then A = {2F, 2B, 3F} and P(A) = 3/6 = 1/2. Let B be the event that card 2 is chosen, then B = {2F, 2B}. We wish to compute P(B A) = P(A B)/P(A) = (1/3) / (1/2) = 2/3. We will leave the most famous conditional probability paradox of all, the Monty Hall problem, for you to enjoy on the homework. 9

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