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Probability

How likely something is to happen.

Many events can't be predicted with total certainty. The best we can say is how
likely they are to happen, using the idea of probability.

Tossing a Coin

When a coin is tossed, there are two possible outcomes:

 heads (H) or
 tails (T)
We say that the probability of the coin landing H is ½
And the probability of the coin landing T is ½

Throwing Dice

When a single die is thrown, there are six possible outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.


The probability of any one of them is 1
6

Probability
In general:

Probability of an event happening = Number of ways it can happen


Total number of outcomes
Example: the chances of rolling a "4" with a die
Number of ways it can happen: 1 (there is only 1 face with a "4" on it)
Total number of outcomes: 6 (there are 6 faces altogether)

So the probability = 1/6

Example: there are 5 marbles in a bag: 4 are blue, and 1 is


red. What is the probability that a blue marble gets picked?
Number of ways it can happen: 4 (there are 4 blues)
Total number of outcomes: 5 (there are 5 marbles in total)

So the probability = 4 / 5 = 0.8

Probability Line
We can show probability on a Probability Line :

Probability is always between 0 and 1

Probability is Just a Guide


Probability does not tell us exactly what will happen, it is just a guide

Example: toss a coin 100 times, how many Heads will come
up?
Probability says that heads have a ½ chance, so we can expect 50 Heads.
But when we actually try it we might get 48 heads, or 55 heads ... or anything
really, but in most cases it will be a number near 50.

Learn more at Probability Index .

Words
Some words have special meaning in Probability:

Experiment: a repeatable procedure with a set of possible results.

Example: Throwing dice


We can throw the dice again and again, so it is repeatable.

The set of possible results from any single throw is {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6}

Outcome: A possible result of an experiment.

Example: Getting a "6"

Sample Space: all the possible outcomes of an experiment.


Example: choosing a card from a deck

There are 52 cards in a deck (not including Jokers)

So the Sample Space is all 52 possible cards: {Ace of Hearts, 2 of Hearts,


etc... }

The Sample Space is made up of Sample Points:

Sample Point: just one of the possible outcomes

Example: Deck of Cards

 the 5 of Clubs is a sample point


 the King of Hearts is a sample point
"King" is not a sample point. There are 4 Kings, so that is 4 different sample
points.

Example: Throwing dice


There are 6 different sample points in the sample space.
Event: one or more outcomes of an experiment

Example Events:
An event can be just one outcome:

 Getting a Tail when tossing a coin


 Rolling a "5"

An event can include more than one outcome:

 Choosing a "King" from a deck of cards (any of the 4 Kings)


 Rolling an "even number" (2, 4 or 6)

Hey, let's use those words, so you get used to them:

Example: Alex wants to see how many times a "double" comes


up when throwing 2 dice.

The Sample Space is all possible Outcomes (36 Sample Points):

{1,1} {1,2} {1,3} {1,4} ... {6,3} {6,4} {6,5} {6,6}

The Event Alex is looking for is a "double", where both dice have the same
number. It is made up of these 6 Sample Points:

{1,1} {2,2} {3,3} {4,4} {5,5} and {6,6}

These are Alex's Results:


Is it a
Experiment
Double?
{3,4} No
{5,1} No
{2,2} Yes
{6,3} No
... ...

After 100 Experiments, Alex has 19 "double" Events ... is that close to what
you would expect?

Question 1

A die is thrown once. What is the probability that the score is a factor of 6?
a) 1/6
b) 1/2
c) 2/3
d) 1

The factors of six are 1, 2, 3 and 6, so the Number of ways it can happen = 4
There are six possible scores when a die is thrown, so the Total number of outcomes
=6
So the probability that the score is a factor of six = 4/6 = 2/3
Question2

The diagram shows a spinner made up of a piece of card in the shape of a regular
pentagon, with a toothpick pushed through its center. The five triangles are numbered
from 1 to 5.

The spinner is spun until it lands on one of the five edges of the pentagon. What is the
probability that the number it lands on is odd?
a) 1/5
b) 2/5
c) 1/2
d) 3/5

There are three odd numbers (1, 3 and 5), so the Number of ways it can happen = 3.
There are five numbers altogether, so the Total number of outcomes = 5.
So the probability the number is odd = 3/5.

Question 3
Each of the letters of the word MISSISSIPPI are written on separate pieces of paper
that are then folded, put in a hat, and mixed thoroughly.

One piece of paper is chosen (without looking) from the hat. What is the probability it
is an I?
a) 4/11
b) 2/5
c) 1/3
d) 1/4

There are 4 I's in the word MISSISSIPPI, so the Number of ways it can happen = 4
There are 11 letters altogether in the word MISSISSIPPI, so the Total number of
outcomes = 11
So the probability the letter chosen is an I = 4/11

Question 4

A card is chosen at random from a deck of 52 playing cards.

There are 4 Queens and 4 Kings in a deck of playing cards.

What is the probability the card chosen is a Queen or a King?


a) 1/13
b) 2/13
c) 1/8
d) 2/11

There are 4 Queens and 4 Kings, so the Number of ways it can happen = 8
There are 52 cards altogether, so the Total number of outcomes = 52
Question 5
A fair coin is tossed three times. What is the probability of obtaining one Head and
two Tails?
(A fair coin is one that is not loaded, so there is an equal chance of it landing Heads
up or Tails up.)
a) 1/4
b) 1/3
c) 3/8
d) 5/8

Represent 'Heads up' by H and 'Tails up' by T.


There are 8 possible ways the coin can land: (H, H, H), (H, H, T), (H, T, H), (H, T, T),
(T, H, H), (T, H, T), (T, T, H) and (T, T, T)
Of these, 3 have one Head and two Tails: (H, T, T), (T, H, T) and (T, T, H)

So:
The Number of ways it can happen = 3
The Total number of outcomes = 8

Question 6
A committee of three is chosen from five councilors - Adams, Burke, Cobb, Dilby and
Evans.

What is the probability Burke is on the committee?


a) 1/5
b) 2/5
c) 1/2
d) 3/5

Abbreviate the names of the five councilors with the letters A, B, C, D and E.

There are 10 possible committees: (A, B, C), (A, B, D), (A, B, E), (A, C, D), (A, C, E), (A,
D, E), (B, C, D), (B, C, E), (B, D, E) and (C, D, E)

Of these, Burke is included in 6: (A, B, C), (A, B, D), (A, B, E), (B, C, D), (B, C, E) and (B,
D, E)

So:
The Number of ways it can happen = 6
The Total number of outcomes = 10

Question 7
A special die is made in the shape of an octahedron:

The die has 8 equal faces marked with the numbers 1 to 8.

If the die is thrown once, what is the probability that the face that lands uppermost
has a prime number?
a) 1/4
b) 3/8
c) 1/2
d) 5/8

The numbers 2, 3, 5 and 7 are prime, so:


The Number of ways it can happen = 4
The Total number of outcomes = 8

Question 8
A thumbtack (drawing pin) can land either:

Drew dropped the thumbtack 100 times and found that it landed point up 38 times.
Drew concluded that the probability the thumbtack lands points up is about:
a) 0.3
b) 0.4
c) 0.5
d) 0.6
The thumbtack landed point up 38 times out of 100.

Therefore, the relative frequency of landing point up is 38/100 = 0.38

0.38 is nearest to 0.4, so the best estimate for the probability the thumbtack
lands point up is 0.4
Question 9
There are 10 counters in a bag: 3 are red, 2 are blue and 5 are green.

The contents of the bag are shaken before Maxine randomly chooses one counter from
the bag.

What is the probability that she doesn't pick a red counter?

There are 7 counters that are not red: 2 blue and 5 green
The Number of ways it can happen = 7
The Total number of outcomes = 10

Question 10
A special die is made in the shape of an icosahedron, and its faces are numbered
with the numbers 1 to 20.

When the die is thrown there is an equal chance of any face landing uppermost.

If the die is thrown once, what is the probability that the face that lands uppermost
has a number that is a factor of 20?
a) 2/10
b) 1/4
c) 3/10
d) 7/20
The factors of 20 are 1, 2, 4, 5, 10 and 20, so:
The Number of ways it can happen = 6
The Total number of outcomes = 20

Lecture 02
Probability: Complement
Complement of an Event: All outcomes that are NOT the event.

When the event is Heads, the complement is Tails

When the event is {Monday, Wednesday} the complement


is {Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday}

When the event is {Hearts} the complement is {Spades,


Clubs, Diamonds, Jokers}

So the Complement of an event is all the other outcomes (not the ones we
want).

And together the Event and its Complement make all possible outcomes.

Probability
Probability of an event happening = Number of ways it can happen/Total
number of outcomes

Example: the chances of rolling a "4" with a die


Number of ways it can happen: 1 (there is only 1 face with a "4" on it)
Total number of outcomes: 6 (there are 6 faces altogether)

So the probability = 1/6

The probability of an event is shown using "P":

P(A) means "Probability of Event A"

The complement is shown by a little mark after the letter such as A' (or
sometimes Ac or A):

P(A') means "Probability of the complement of Event A"

The two probabilities always add to 1

P(A) + P(A') = 1

Example: Rolling a "5" or "6"


Event A is {5, 6}

Number of ways it can happen: 2

Total number of outcomes: 6

P(A) = 2/6 = 1/3

The Complement of Event A is {1, 2, 3, 4}

Number of ways it can happen: 4

Total number of outcomes: 6

P(A') = 4/6 = 2/3


Let us add them:

P(A) + P(A') = 1/ 3 + 2 /3 = 3 /3 = 1

Yep, that makes 1

It makes sense, right? Event A plus all outcomes that are not Event A make
up all possible outcomes.

Why is the Complement Useful?


It is sometimes easier to work out the complement first.

Example. Throw two dice. What is the probability the two scores are
different?
Different scores are like getting a 2 and 3, or a 6 and 1. It is quite a long list:

A = { (1,2), (1,3), (1,4), (1,5), (1,6),


(2,1), (2,3), (2,4), ... etc ! }

But the complement (which is when the two scores are the same) is only 6
outcomes:

A' = { (1,1), (2,2), (3,3), (4,4), (5,5), (6,6) }

And its probability is:

P(A') = 6/36 = 1/6

Knowing that P(A) and P(A') together make 1, we can calculate:

P(A) = 1 − P(A')
= 1 − 1/6
= 5/6
So in this case (and many others) it's easier to work out P(A') first, then find
P(A)

a) 3/4
b) 1/2
c) 1/3
d) 1/4

Answer
P(A') means "Probability of
the complement of Event
A": all outcomes that are
NOT the event.

P(A) + P(A') = 1

So P(A') = 1 - P(A)

Question 2 A fair die is thrown. What is the probability that the score is not a factor
of 6?
a) 1/4
b) 1/3
c) 1/2
d) 2/3

Answer
The numbers on the die that
are factors of 6 are 1, 2, 3
and 6
Question 3 Two fair coins
are tossed. What is the
probability at least one coin
lands heads up?
a) 3/4
b) 2/3
c) 1/2
d) 1/4
Answer
Method 1:
The complement of 'At least
one coin lands heads up' is
'Both coins land tails up'.

Method 2:
These are the possible
outcomes:
HH
HT
TH
TT
3 out of the 4 have "at least
one coin lands heads up", so
the answer is ¾

Question4
A spinner is made from a
piece of card in the shape of
a regular pentagon with a
toothpick pushed through
the center. When the
spinner is spun and it lands
on an edge, each of the
numbers from 1 to 5 is
equally likely.
If the spinner is spun twice,
what is the probability the
two scores are different?
a) 1/5
b) 16/25
c) 4/5
d) 24/25

Answer
The complement of 'The
two scores are different' is
'The two scores are the
same'.

There are five ways of


getting two scores that are
the same:
{(1, 1), (2, 2), (3, 3), (4, 4),
(5, 5)}
out of 25 possible
outcomes.