Skip Navigation

7.8: Probability and Combinations

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
Turn In

When the order of objects is not important and/or the objects are replaced, combinations are formed.

A combination is an arrangement of objects in no particular order.

Consider a sandwich with salami, ham, and turkey. It does not matter the order in which we place the deli meat, as long as it’s on the sandwich.

There is only one way to stack the meat on the sandwich if the order does not matter. However, if the order mattered, there are 3 choices for the first meat, 2 for the second, and one for the last choice: \begin{align*}\underline{3} \cdot \underline{2} \cdot \underline{1}=6\end{align*}321=6.

\begin{align*}Combination \neq Permutation\end{align*}CombinationPermutation

A combination of \begin{align*}n\end{align*}n objects chosen \begin{align*}k\end{align*}k at a time is expressed as \begin{align*}_nC_k\end{align*}nCk.

\begin{align*}_nC_k =\frac{n!}{k!(n-k)!}= \binom{n}{k}\end{align*}nCk=n!k!(nk)!=(nk)

This is read “\begin{align*}n\end{align*}n choose \begin{align*}k\end{align*}k.”

Example 1: How many ways can 8 students be chosen from a class of 21?

Solution: It does not matter how the eight students are chosen. Use the formula for combination rather than permutation.

\begin{align*}=\frac{21!}{8!(21-8)!}= 203,490\end{align*}=21!8!(218)!=203,490

There are 203,490 different ways to choose eight students from 21.

Example: The Senate is made of 100 people, two per state. How many different four-person committees are possible?

Solution: This question does not care how the committee members are chosen; we will use the formula for combination.

\begin{align*}\binom{100}{4}=\frac{100!}{4!(100-4)!}=3,921,225 \ ways\end{align*}(1004)=100!4!(1004)!=3,921,225 ways

That is a lot of possibilities!

Combinations on the Graphing Calculator

Just like permutations, most graphing calculators have the capability to calculate combinations. On the TI calculators, use these directions.

  • Enter the \begin{align*}n\end{align*}n, or the total to choose from.
  • Choose the [MATH] button, directly below the [ALPHA] key. Move the cursor once to the left to see this screen:

  • Choose option #3, \begin{align*}_nC_r\end{align*}nCr. Type in the \begin{align*}k\end{align*}k value, the amount you want to choose.

Probability and Combinations

Combinations are used in probability when there is a replacement of objects or the order does not matter.

Suppose you have ten marbles: four blue and six red. You choose three marbles without looking. What is the probability that all three marbles are blue?

\begin{align*}\text{Probability} \ (success) = \frac{number \ of \ ways \ to \ get \ success}{total \ number \ of \ possible \ outcomes}\end{align*}Probability (success)=number of ways to get successtotal number of possible outcomes

There are \begin{align*}_4C_3\end{align*}4C3 ways to choose the blue marbles. There are \begin{align*}_{10}C_3\end{align*}10C3 total combinations.

\begin{align*}P(all \ 3 \ marbles \ are \ blue)= \frac{\binom{4}{3}}{\binom{10}{3}} = \frac{4}{120}=\frac{1}{30}\end{align*}P(all 3 marbles are blue)=(43)(103)=4120=130

There is approximately 3.33% chance of all three marbles being drawn are blue.

Practice Set

  1. What is a combination? How is it different from a permutation?
  2. How many ways can you choose \begin{align*}k\end{align*}k objects from \begin{align*}n\end{align*}n possibilities?
  3. Why is \begin{align*}_3C_9\end{align*}3C9 impossible to evaluate?

In 4 – 19, evaluate the combination.

  1. \begin{align*}\binom{12}{2}\end{align*}(122)
  2. \begin{align*}\binom{8}{5}\end{align*}(85)
  3. \begin{align*}\binom{5}{1}\end{align*}(51)
  4. \begin{align*}\binom{3}{0}\end{align*}(30)
  5. \begin{align*}\binom{9}{9}\end{align*}(99)
  6. \begin{align*}\binom{9}{4}\end{align*}(94)
  7. \begin{align*}\binom{20}{10}\end{align*}(2010)
  8. \begin{align*}\binom{19}{18}\end{align*}
  9. \begin{align*}\binom{20}{14}\end{align*}
  10. \begin{align*}\binom{13}{9}\end{align*}
  11. \begin{align*}_7C_3\end{align*}
  12. \begin{align*}_{11}C_5\end{align*}
  13. \begin{align*}_5C_4\end{align*}
  14. \begin{align*}_{13}C_9\end{align*}
  15. \begin{align*}_{20}C_5\end{align*}
  16. \begin{align*}_{15}C_{15}\end{align*}
  17. Your backpack contains 6 books. You select two at random. How many different pairs of books could you select?
  18. Seven people go out for dinner. In how many ways can 4 order steak, 2 order vegan, and 1 order seafood?
  19. A pizza parlor has 10 toppings to choose from. How many four-topping pizzas can be created?
  20. Gooies Ice Cream Parlor offers 28 different ice creams. How many two-scooped cones are possible, given the order does not matter?
  21. A college football team plays 14 games. In how many ways can the season end with 8 wins, 4 losses, and 2 ties?
  22. Using the marble situation from the lesson, determine the probability that the three marbles chosen are all red?
  23. Using the marble situation from the lesson, determine the probability that two marbles are red and the third is blue.
  24. Using the Senate situation from the lesson, how many two-person committees can be made using Senators?
  25. Your English exam has seven essays and you must answer four. How many combinations can be made?
  26. The sociology test has 15 true/false questions. In how many ways can you answer 11 correctly?
  27. Seven people are applying for two vacant school board positions; four are women, three are men. In how many ways can these vacancies be filled ...
    1. With any two applicants?
    2. With only women?
    3. With one man and one woman?

Mixed Review

  1. How many ways can 15 paintings be lined along a wall?
  2. Your calculator gives an “Overload” error when trying to simplify \begin{align*}\frac{300!}{296!}\end{align*}. What can you do to help evaluate this fraction?
  3. Consider a standard six-sided die. What is the probability that the number rolled will be a multiple of 2?
  4. Solve the following system: The sum of two numbers is 70.6 and their product is 1,055.65. Find the two numbers.

Notes/Highlights Having trouble? Report an issue.

Color Highlighted Text Notes
Show More

Image Attributions

Show Hide Details
Files can only be attached to the latest version of section
Please wait...
Please wait...
Image Detail
Sizes: Medium | Original