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Chapter Five Notes

Chapter Five deals with Discrete Probability Distributions.


To create a discrete probability distribution we pretty much just list everything that could
possibly happen along with the probability of them happening. We make two rows. The
first row is labeled with an x and the row underneath that is labeled with P(x) (which
means the probability of x). Next to the x we list everything that could possibly happen.
Then, next to the P(x) we list the probability of it happening.
Heres a simple example. Lets pretend that there are 10 kids on a playground. There
are four 6 year-olds, five 8 year-olds, and one 9 year-old. Lets also pretend that we are
going to select one of the kids at random. The distribution that describes their ages would
look like this:
X
P(x)

6
4/10

8
5/10

9
1/10

Note that in this case, x represents the students ages and P(x) represents that probability
of x being picked.
Heres another example. Lets say that we were going to flip a coin twice. Construct
the probability distribution for the number of heads that could be flipped.
In order to get the answer we first have to think about everything that could possibly
happen. If a coin is flipped twice there are only four possible outcomes (assuming that
the coin wont land on its side). The four possible outcomes are: HH, HT, TH, TT.
Thats it. Nothing else could occur. We can see that there is a chance of getting two
heads. There is a 2/4 (or ) chance of getting exactly one head and there is 1/4 chance of
getting zero heads.
So if I really flipped a coin twice how many heads would I get? Nobody can answer that
question without being able to see the future, but what we can say is that there will either
be zero heads, or one head, or two heads. One of those three thing has to happen.
Therefore, my probability distribution looks like this:
X
P(x)

A couple of things:
1) In the above example, fractions are used in the P(x) row. This is often the case, but
decimals may also be used in some cases.

2) Notice that if you add up all the numbers in the P(x) row it equals one. Is this always
the case? Yes. Hopefully you can see why.
Mean of a Discrete Probability Distribution:
The mean of a probability distribution is the same as the expected value of the
distribution. You should remember this. The terms will often be used interchangeably.
In order to calculate the mean (or expected value) of a discrete probability distribution we
use the following formula:
E(x)= = x P (x )
In the above formula E(x) denotes expected value
The formula itself is simple to work with. It simply tells us to multiply all the columns
and then add everything up.
Example: Find the expected value of the distribution of the ages of the children at the
playground (from above).
X
P(x)

6
4/10

8
5/10

9
1/10

So we have:
E(x) =

x P(x)

(6)(4/10) + (8)(5/10) + (9)(1/10) = 7.3

Therefore the mean of the distribution (or the expected value) is 7.3 years.
Variance and Standard Deviation of Discrete Probability Distributions:
The formula for calculating the variance of a discrete probability distribution is the
following:
2 ( x ) 2 P ( x)

A couple of notes here:


*This formula can be found on page 262 of your text about a third of the way down the
page. This is the formula that I recommend using. The formula found in the brown box
on page 262 can also be used.

*In order to use the formula for variance, we must first calculate the mean.
*As always, the standard deviation is the square root of the variance.
Example: Find the variance and the square root of the distribution of the childrens ages
at the playground.
X
P(x)

6
4/10

8
5/10

9
1/10

Recall that the mean of this distribution is 7.3. Now, using the above formula we have:
2 (6 7.3) 2 (4 / 10) (8 7.3) 2 (5 / 10) (9 7.3) 2 (1 / 10) 1.21

So the variance is 1.21. It follows that the standard deviation is 1.1.


Expected Value has many useful applications. Lets look at one here:
Lets play a game. We are going to use an ordinary deck of 52 cards. I will allow you to
pick one card at random from the deck. (No peeking). The following rules apply:
1) If you pick an Ace I will give you $3
2) If you pick a face card (King, Queen, or Jack) I will give you $2
3) If you pick anything else you must give me 75 cents
Now for the big question. Do you want to play the game?
First of all what does your gut tell you? Is it smart to play this game or should you walk
away? In order to answer the question we need to find the expected value of our
winnings/losings. Heres how its done.
First we need to set up our discrete probability distribution. Ask yourself How many
different things could possibly happen? The answer in this case is three. You will either
win $3, win $2 or lose $0.75. Nothing else is possible. So when we set up our probability
distribution we have this.
X
P(x)

-0.75

But we need to complete the table. In order to do so ask yourself What is the probability
that I will win $3? Since there are 52 cards in a deck and 4 of them are aces, then the
probability of winning $3 is 4/52.

What is the probability of winning $2? There are 12 face cards in a deck (4 kings, 4
queens, and 4 jacks). So the probability of winning $2 is 12/52.
What is the probability of losing 75 cents? The answer to that question is 36/52. There
are 4 aces and 12 face cards so there are 36 other cards.
Now the probability distribution looks like this:
X
P(x)

3
4/52

2
12/52

-0.75
36/52

If you understand what we have so far, the rest is the easy part. We need to calculate the
expected value of this distribution. In doing so, we have:
E(x) = (3)(4/52) + (2)(12/52) + (-.0.75)(36/52)

.173

The expected value comes out to be .173, or approximately 17 cents. Notice that this
number is positive. This means that if you were to play this game many times you would
make, on average, 17 cents every time you played. So the answer to the question is yes.
If someone were to offer you a chance to play this game, you should take it because the
odds are in your favor.
In the previous example we said that we would want to play the game because the
expected value came out to be a positive number. If you were to figure out the expected
value of some games offered at casinos (roulette, blackjack, craps, etc.) do you think that
the expected value will be positive or negative?
Youd better believe that it would come out to be negative. Thats why casinos make lots
of money. The games are stacked in their favor.
Example: Lets play a game similar to the one above. In this case, however, well make
the pay outs as follows:
If you pick an Ace you get $5
If you pick a King you get $4.50
If you pick anything else you must pay me $1
Do you want to play the game?
Ill leave the work for you but if you do it correctly the expected value comes out to be
About -.115 or approximately -12 cents. You wouldnt want to play this game.

The Binomial Distribution:


The binomial distribution is a special kind of discrete probability distribution. It is only
applicable in certain situations. Four criteria must be met:
1) There must be a fixed number of trials
2) Each trial must have two possible outcomes. One is called a success the other is
called a failure.
3) Each trial must be independent
4) The probability of a success must remain the same for each trial
Examples of a binomial experiment:
A. Flipping a coin ten times.
B. Answering 15 true/false questions by guessing
C. Answering 20 multiple choice questions by guessing
D. A basketball player shooting 12 foul shots
C may have surprised you. Because it is a multiple choice test students often think that
there are more than two possible outcomes. But really, were only interested in whether
the answer was correct or incorrect. So the problem can be looked at as a binomial
problem.
In a moment well examine the formula and notation and so forth, but before proceeding,
make certain that you understand that the formula only applies when you have a binomial
situation.
The binomial formula is made up of several symbols. Youll need to make sure that you
know these.
p
q
n
x

The probability of success


The probability of failure
The total number of trials
The number that were working with in a specific example

The formula itself looks like this:


P( x)

n!
p x q n x
( n x)! x!

Example: A basketball player is a 76% shooter. He takes 10 shots. What is the


probability that he will make exactly 8?

The first thing you need to ask yourself is Is this a binomial problem? Lets see.
1) Is there a fixed number of trials? Yes. Hes taking ten shots.
2) Are there two possible outcomes? Yes. Hell either make the shot or miss it.
3) Is each trial independent? People sometimes argue about this one, but yes the events
are independent.
4) Is the probability of success must remain the same for each trial? Yes.
So it is a binomial problem. Because of this, we can use the binomial formula to solve it.
The formula looks scary, but it is easier than it looks.
Step one: Identify all your variables.
p = .75, q = .25, n= 10, x = 8
Step Two: Write down the binomial formula.
P( x)

n!
p x q n x
( n x)! x!

Step Three: Substitute in for all of the variables.


P( x)

10!
(.75) 8 (.25)108
(10 8)!8!

Step Four: Evaluate


P(x)

.28157

There is about a 28% chance that the player will make exactly 8 out of his 10 shots.
Example: Another basketball player makes 72% of his foul shots. He takes 12 foul
shots. What is the probability that he will make exactly 7?
The math is left to you, but the answer comes out to be about .137 or around 14%.
Example: A person is going to roll a die 8 times. What is the probability that she will
get exactly two 4s.
This is a binomial experiment. Even though a die has six sides, really we can break the
problem down into two outcomes. Your either going to roll a 4 or your not going to
roll a 4.

Step one: Identify the variables:


p = 1/6 q= 5/6 n= 8 x = 2
Step Two: Write down the binomial formula.
P( x)

n!
p x q n x
( n x)! x!

Step Three: Substitute in for all of the variables.


P( x)

8!
(1 / 6) 2 (5 / 6) 8 2
(8 2)!2!

Step Four: Evaluate


P(x)

.260

If you roll a die 8 times. Theres about a 26% chance youll end up rolling a 4 exactly
twice.
The binomial table: Open you book to page 768. Youre looking at a table of the
binomial distribution. It actually continues on for a few pages. Some binomial problems
are commonly found and somebody actually already figured out the answers and put
them in this table. All you need to do is know how to read the table, which is actually
quite simple. The bad news is that you cant use this table for every problem. The best
way for you to figure out how to use this table is with an example. So here we go.
Example: 20% of the people in a certain city are retired. If we randomly select 14
people in the city, what is the probability that exactly 3 of them will be retired?
Were going to use the table to get our answer. First we need to identify our variables:
p = .20 q = .80 n = 14 x = 3
Now from this point we could use the binomial formula if we wanted to, but its much
easier to use the table.
Step One: Find the correct n in the left most column.
In this example you actually need to turn to page 770 to find where n is 14.
Step Two: In the x column put your left index finger on the correct x.

In this case your finger should be where n is 14 and x is 3.


Step Three: Put your right index finger on the correct p in the top row
In this case your right finger should be where p is .2
Step Four: Slide your fingers together.
The answer is .250. Which is the same answer you would have gotten had you worked
through the formula (but using the table is a lot easier).
*The good news is that the table makes life a lot easier. The bad news is that you cant
always use it. Theres two reason why not.
1) The table only goes up to n = 20. So if you have a problem with more than 20 trials
you cant use the table.
2) Only certain values of p are listed. Look across the top row. If p = .2 we can use the
table, but if p = .21 we cant.
The bottom line is that the table is great in that it makes life a lot easier, but it only works
in certain cases. If you are given a problem and you can use the table you definitely
should do so.
One last example: 20% of the people in a certain city are retired. If we randomly select
14 people in the city, what is the probability that at most 2 of them will be retired?
This problem is very similar to our last one but with one major difference. Look where it
says at most 2. The phrase at most 2 is another way of saying 2 or less. So in order
to get the answer we need to find the probability of getting two, the probability of getting
one and the probability of getting zero. Then we add them up.
Using the table we have:
P(2) = .250
P(1) = .154
P(0) = .044
So therefore the probability of at most 2 is .250 + .154 + .044 = .448
*Hopefully, youre understanding this stuff. Now you should go and do a zillion practice
problems.

Problems:
1) Find the expected value of the following probability distribution:
X
5
10
12
P(x) .20
.35
.45
2) Find the standard deviation of the following probability distribution:
X
5
10
12
P(x) .20
.35
.45
3) A game is played with a deck of cards using the following rules. You are allowed
to randomly select one card. If the card is red you get $3. If the card is a black
king you will get $25. If you pick anything else you must pay $4. Is it wise to
play this game? Explain.
4) Assume that 21% of the population plays video games every day. If 17 people are
randomly selected, what is the probability that exactly 6 of them play video games
daily?