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Understanding the Birthday Paradox

by Kalid Azad 190 comments (https://twitter.com/share)

23 people. In a room of just 23 people theres a 50-50 chance of two people having the same birthday. In a room of 75
theres a 99.9% chance of two people matching.
Put down the calculator and pitchfork, I dont speak heresy. The birthday paradox is strange, counter-intuitive, and
completely true. Its only a paradox because our brains cant handle the compounding power of exponents. We expect
probabilities to be linear and only consider the scenarios were involved in (both faulty assumptions, by the way).
Lets see why the paradox happens and how it works.

Problem 1: Exponents arent intuitive

Weve taught ourselves mathematics and statistics, but lets not kid ourselves: its not natural.
Heres an example: Whats the chance of getting 10 heads in a row when ipping coins? The untrained brain might think
like this:
Well, getting one head is a 50% chance. Getting two heads is twice as hard, so a 25% chance. Getting ten heads is probably
10 times harder so about 50%/10 or a 5% chance.
And there we sit, smug as a bug on a rug. No dice bub.
After pounding your head with statistics, you know not to divide, but use exponents. The chance of 10 heads is not .5/10
but .510, or about .001.
But even after training, we get caught again. At 5% interest well double our money in 14 years, rather than the expected
20. Did you naturally infer the Rule of 72 (http://betterexplained.com/articles/the-rule-of-72/) when learning about interest
rates? Probably not. Understanding compound exponential growth with our linear brains is hard.

Problem 2: Humans are a tad bit sel sh

Take a look at the news (http://news.google.com). Notice how much of the negative news is the result of acting without
considering others. Im an optimist and do have hope for mankind, but thats a separate discussion :).
In a room of 23, do you think of the 22 comparisons where your birthday is being compared against someone elses?
Do you think of the 231 comparisons where someone who is not you is being checked against someone else who is not you?
Do you realize there are so many? Probably not.
The fact that we neglect the 10 times as many comparisons that dont include us helps us see why the paradox can

Ok, ne, humans are awful: Show me the math!

The question: What are the chances that two people share a birthday in a group of 23?
Sure, we could list the pairs and count all the ways they could match. But thats hard: there could be 1, 2, 3 or even 23
Its like asking Whats the chance of getting one or more heads in 23 coin ips? There are so many possibilities: heads on
the rst throw, or the 3rd, or the last, or the 1st and 3rd, the 2nd and 21st, and so on.
How do we solve the coin problem? Flip it around (Get it? Get it?). Rather than counting every way to get heads, nd the
chance of getting all tails, our problem scenario.
If theres a 1% chance of getting all tails (more like .5^23 but work with me here), theres a 99% chance of having at least
one head. I dont know if its 1 head, or 2, or 15 or 23: we got heads, and thats what matters. If we subtract the chance of a
problem scenario from 1 we are left with the probability of a good scenario.
The same principle applies for birthdays. Instead of nding all the ways we match, nd the chance that everyone is
different, the problem scenario. We then take the opposite probability and get the chance of a match. It may be 1
match, or 2, or 20, but somebody matched, which is what we need to nd.

Explanation: Counting Pairs

With 23 people we have 253 pairs:

(Brush up on combinations and permutations (http://betterexplained.com/articles/easy-permutations-and-combinations/)

if you like).
The chance of 2 people having different birthdays is:

Makes sense, right? Theres 364 out of 365 birthdays that are OK.
Having all 253 pairs be different is like getting heads 253 times in a row (well, sort-of: lets assume birthdays are
independent). We use exponents to nd the probability:

99.7260% is really close to one, but when you multiply it by itself a few hundred times, it shrinks. Really fast.
The chance that we have a match is: 1 49.95% = 50.05%, or just over half! If you want to nd the probability of a match for

The chance that we have a match is: 1 49.95% = 50.05%, or just over half! If you want to nd the probability of a match for
any number of people n the formula is:

Interactive Example
I didnt believe we needed only 23 people. The math works out, but is it real?
You bet. Try the example below: Pick a number of items (365), a number of people (23) and run a few trials. Youll see the
theoretical match and your actual match as you run your trials. Go ahead, click the button (or see the full page

Items: 365

People: 23

RunTrial reset

As you run more and more trials (keep clicking!) the actual probability should approach the theoretical one.

Examples and Takeaways

Here are a few lessons from the birthday paradox:
sqrt(n) is roughly the number you need to have a 50% chance of a match with n items. sqrt(365) is about 20. This
comes into play in cryptography for the birthday attack.
Even though there are 2128 (1e38) GUIDs (http://betterexplained.com/articles/the-quick-guide-to-guids/), we only
have 264 (1e19) to use up before a 50% chance of collision. And 50% is really, really high.
You only need 13 people picking letters of the alphabet to have 95% chance of a match. Try it above (people = 13,
items = 26).
Exponential growth rapidly decreases the chance of picking unique items (aka it increases the cranes of a match).
Remember: exponents are non-intuitive and humans are selfish!
After thinking about it a lot, the birthday paradox nally clicks with me. But I still check out the interactive example just to
make sure.

Appendix A: Repeated Multiplication Explanation (Geeky Math Alert!)

Remember how we assumed birthdays are independent? Well, they arent.
If Person 1 and Person 3 match, and Person 3 and 5 match, we know that 1 and 5 match also. The outcome of 1 and 5
depends on their results with 3, which means the results arent an independent 1/365 chance (in our case, its a 100%
chance of a match).
When counting pairs we did math as if birthdays were like independent coin ips, and multiplied probabilities. This
assumption isnt strictly true but its good enough for a small number of people (23) compared to the sample size (365).
Its unlikely to have multiple people match and screw up the independence, so its a good approximation.
Its unlikely, but it can happen. Lets gure out the real chances of each person picking a different number:
The first person has a 100% chance of a unique number (of course)
The second has a (1 1/365) chance (all but 1 number from the 365)
The third has a (1 2/365) chance (all but 2 numbers)
The 23rd has a (1 22/365) (all but 22 numbers)
The multiplication looks pretty ugly:

But theres a shortcut we can take. When x is close to 0, a coarse rst-order Taylor approximation for ex is:


Using our handy shortcut we can rewrite the big equation to:

But we remember that adding the numbers 1 to n (http://betterexplained.com/articles/techniques-for-adding-the-numbers1-to-100/) = n(n + 1)/2. Dont confuse this with n(n-1)/2, which is C(n,2) or the number of pairs of n items. They look almost
the same!
Adding 1 to 22 is (22 * 23)/2 so we get:

Phew. This approximation is very close (http://instacalc.com/?

and good enough for government work, as they say. If you simplify the formula a bit and swap in n for 23 you get:


Appendix B: The General Birthday Formula

Lets generalize the formula to picking n people from T total items (instead of 365):

If we choose a probability (like 50% chance of a match) and solve for n:

Voila! If you take sqrt(T) items (17% more if you want to be picky) then you have about a 50-50 chance of getting a match. If
you plug in other numbers (http://tinyurl.com/2rhwwu) you can solve for other probabilities:

Remember that m is the desired chance of a match (its easy to get confused, I did it myself). If you want a 90% chance of
matching birthdays, plug m=90% and T=365 into the equation and see that you need 41 people (http://tinyurl.com/yw6fmx).
Wikipedia has even more details (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birthday_paradox) to satisfy your inner nerd. Go forth and

Appendix C: Try it out!

Plug in your own numbers into the below:

R1 people=23


R2 days=365


R3 pairs=(people*(people1))/2
R4 chanceperpair=pairs/days 0.69315068493
R5 chancedifferent
R6 chanceofmatch

Other Posts In This Series

1. A Brief Introduction to Probability & Statistics (http://betterexplained.com/articles/a-brief-introduction-toprobability-statistics/)
2. How To Analyze Data Using the Average (http://betterexplained.com/articles/how-to-analyze-data-using-theaverage/)
3. An Intuitive (and Short) Explanation of Bayes' Theorem (http://betterexplained.com/articles/an-intuitive-andshort-explanation-of-bayes-theorem/)
4. Understanding Bayes Theorem With Ratios (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-bayes-theoremwith-ratios/)
5. Understanding the Birthday Paradox (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-birthday-paradox/)
6. Understanding the Monty Hall Problem (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-monty-hallproblem/)
Posted in Math (http://betterexplained.com/articles/category/math/)

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Have feedback? Just enter it above. I'm making a curated set of questions and insights for the article. Thanks!

1. Herman Hiddema says:
The math here is actually wrong. The chances of individual pairs are not independent. You math would work if you take
each pair and have them name a random number between 1 and 365.
With this math, taking a group of 365 people still results in a non-zero chance that they all have different birthdays.

2. Kalid says:
Thanks for the info, youre right. I did some more digging (good paper here (http://ocw.mit.edu/NR/rdonlyres/ElectricalEngineering-and-Computer-Science/6-042JMathematics-for-Computer-ScienceFall2002/033D4EB6-FA3E-44B5-9103921AEEF10AC2/0/ln10.pdf)) and birthdays arent mutually independent.
If Person 1 = Person 3, and Person 3 = Person 5, there isnt an independent event that Person 1 = Person 5. The probability
of 1 matching 5 has already been determined by the other statements.
From what I was able to gather, this is only a problem if there are existing overlapping pairs. For a small n relative to the
number of outcomes (365), its unlikely to have multiple matches that affect the probability, so assuming independence
may be ok for computing approximations.

3. Anonymous says:
The last formula is incorrect, it should be:
n ~ sqt(-2 ln(1-p)) sqt(T)
or else you are nding the probability to miss.

4. Kalid says:
Thanks for the tip! I xed up the article to use p(different) and p(match), which is much more clear.

5. Pseudonym says:
The take-away lesson about GUIDs is wrong. GUIDs are (theoretically) guaranteed to be globally unique, because they
include such things as the MAC address of your network card (something which is globally unique until some cheap NIC
manufacturer starts recycling them) and the current time.
The catch is that because of the time factor, the current GUID algorithm wont last forever. We will run out in a couple of

6. Kalid (http://betterexplained.com) says:

Hi, thats a good point about MAC addresses. However, if you consider GUIDs as just a giant random number (for the
purposes of the exercise), you are looking for how many items out of a pool of 2^128 you can distribute before having a
50% chance of collision.
For the birthday paradox, its about 23 items (of a pool of 365) before a 50% chance of collision. For GUIDs, it will be
roughly 2^64 items before a 50% chance of collision.
Theres a bit more information here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UUID (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UUID)
Hope this helps,

7. Allan says:
can the math in the birthday paradox applicable to pick3 lottery?

8. Kalid (http://instacalc.com) says:

Hi Allan, Im not too familiar with the rules of Pick3, but Ill take a shot.
The birthday paradox helps nd the chance that any two random numbers will collide in a set.

In Pick3, you dont really care if two guesses collide you want the guess to collide with the winning number. In this
case, two losing tickets that both guessed 123 (when the real answer was 999) isnt helpful.
I may be missing something though!

9. n(t) (http://weblogs.manas.com.ar/ndt/) says:

Hey, great blog.
A coarse rst-order Taylor approximation for e^x is: \displaystyle{e^x \approx 1 + x}
thats just valid if x

thats just valid if x

10. n(t) (http://weblogs.manas.com.ar/ndt/) says:

[] if x

11. n(t) (http://weblogs.manas.com.ar/ndt/) says:

[..] if x is far less than 1

12. Ashton Carr says:

I am doin a science fair experiment on this i need helpand i need to know if the math is over my head??!!

13. Kalid says:

@nt: Thanks for the tip, I updated the article to make that more clear.
@Ashton: Hi Ashton, you might want to ask your math teacher to see if youve covered the necessary topics in class.
Youll probably need statistics and combinatorics.

14. zhao says:

hello kalid,
i read a few of your articles and think they are freaking awesome.
thanks and keep up the good work.

15. Kalid says:

Hi Zhao, thanks for the comment! Ill try to keep cranking out the posts :).

16. demi says:

Heyy ;; i have no clue how to do this!
17. abc says:
I think that the math behind this birthday paradox is wrong..
The chance of two people having same birthdays is 1/365 = 0.0027397
therefore p(n)= 0.0027397 ^C(n,2)
if we take an example of 23 people
we get p(23)= 0.0027397 ^ 253 ~=0
so how is it possible??

18. Kalid says:

Hi, youre correct 1/365 is the chance of 2 people having the same birthday. However, (1/365)^253 would be the chance of
253 people having the *same* birthday! (Which, as you see, is pretty close to zero).
For this problem, its important not to mix up 1/365 (the chance of 1 collision) and 364/365 (the chance of no collision).
We rst nd the chance that somehow, everyone manages to be different:
p(23 people have different birthdays) = (364/365)^253
If there is a 40% chance that everyone is different, there is 1-40% = 60% chance that there was an overlap somewhere.
Hope this helps. (Technically, we are assuming independent events but that subtlety is not important for the main point).

19. abc says:

(364/365)^253 means that 253 people have different birthdays
when you check this for 366 people , there is a >=100% chance for the birthday paradox.
but when you use this fomula we get the answer as 1 2.6 * 10^-80 which is less than 1
why is it so??
AND I have never seen two people having the same birthday in my group which has a greater strength than 23.this
cannot be a coincidence!!!
I still doubt that there is a 50% chance of people having the same birthday

20. Kalid says:

Hi, when you make the probability like (364/365)^253, you are assuming independent events. What this means is that
each comparison is fresh, with no memory of the past. It would be like having 2 people pick the same number out of
365, and choosing a different number each time.

This approximation makes the math easier, and is ok for small values. If you want the actual %, take a look at Appendix
Yep, the paradox seems strange, doesnt it? Take a look at this page and run some experiments on your own to see:
As you click run trial, you will see the actual match percentage for 23 people approach 50%, which is the predicted one.
Hope this helps.

21. Anonymous says:

21. Anonymous says:

the math for the birthday paradox is in fact quite simple, the problem scenario probability is in fact
364/365 times 363/365 times times (364-22)/365
you should think like this.
-person one chose a day of the year as a birthday
-person two chose a day of the year as its birthday, BUT DIFFERENT than person ones choice.
-so on
-person 23 does the same BUT DIFFERENT than previous people choices.
This is exactly what I wrote above in probabilities

22. Anonymous says:

Oh yeah, sorry the last fraction is (365-22)/365

23. Kalid says:

Yep, thats right. Sometimes that multiplication can be long to do out see Appendix A for a shortcut.

24. Brittany says:

Thanks for thisim gonna use this as an idea for science fair!
Testing to see if the Birthday Paradox holds true.
23 in a room, 50% chance two will match!
Cant wait!

25. Kalid says:

Sounds great Brittany! And if you have 75 people at your fair, youre almost guaranteed to have a match :).

26. Jon says:

Its funny. There are actually two birthday paradoxes. The other comes from logic and is actually, actually, according to
Quine, a veridical paradox, where it appears to be paradoxical, yet is proven true anyway, the fact that someone turns 7
when they are twenty-eight years old (born feb. 29), much like this birthday paradox.
What is interesting is that the two overlap. So to properly treat the birthday paradox (your version) you would have to
take this into account.
So a very interesting treatment would be: what happens to the probability of sharing a birthday when you take into
account feb 29, twins, triplets, etc, the fact (i believe) that there are higher frequencies of babies born during certain
times of the year than others.
I might work this out, if asked, but I dont think it would work out to 50% out of 23. It would be interesting to see how
close it was though.

27. Paula says:

thx 4 the info it was confusing but really good, im going 2 use this 4 my science fair project

28. Albert says:

Does the dependency matter really at all?? I have just read it once, so maybe I dont get it yet, but it seems you are just
looking for at least 1 match?
50/50 chance of at least one match? If that is the case why would the dependency matter?

29. Albert says:

It seems since you are looking at each individual group at a time, that each event would be independent from the rest.
Therefore looking at each group separately each group has a 1/365th possibility of matching?
I dont know

30. Lynne says:

I have a question: 6 people, one movie being advertized3 people having the same birthdayand same birthday show on
advertisement at the same time. What would the chances be? This was an actual event.

31. Lynne says:

I asked a question on 4-1-09 about the birthday paradox and an actual event. The reason I would like to know the odds
of that happening, is because it was one event out of four similar events. Any suggestions on where I can nd some
answer to the odds other than here?

32. Soma (http://www.2buysoma.com) says:

Hi Ashton, you might want to ask your math teacher to see if youve covered the necessary topics in class. Youll probably
need statistics and combinatorics.

33. tameka says:

all my brothers and sisters(not by both same parents)have the birthday of 2or 16

34. Sean says:

The explanations given are all approximations, in order to get an exact result you follow the start to Appendix A, but

The explanations given are all approximations, in order to get an exact result you follow the start to Appendix A, but
dont attempt to simplify with e^x. The solution is actually fairly simple, for n possibilities (days in the year) and k events
(people at the party) we get a probability of:
1 (P(n-1,k-1)/(n^(k-1))).
Where P(n,k) is the number of ways to pick k elements from a set of n, or n!/(n-k)!.
This will give an exact solution, the probability of nding two people with the same birthday from a crowd of 23 is more
accurately: 50.7297234%
I hope that this makes sense, if it doesnt, look at the page on combinatorics and/or think about the fact that (1-(j/n)) =
((n-j)/n) with reference to Appendix A.

35. Roy says:

Arent there 366 possible birthdays? (feb 29)

36. angelina says:

this is really interesting!! im doing a math project on this !! nice topic!!

37. Kalid says:

@angelina: Awesome, glad you liked it!

38. keith hoyes says:

the way i intuitively see the 50% is like this,

imagine throwing 23 point blobs of paint at a calender on the wall. Then move all the dates that hit into a tidy ~55
square in the corner.
Now throw another 23 blobs of paint at the wall.
To me, it is almost inconceivable that no paint blobs will now touch the dates in the 23 blob square in the corner (50/50

39. Anonymous says:

I got it after third heading.HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

40. George says:

Thank you.
Well detailed and nicely structured guide for a really misinterpreted problem.

41. Ardya says:

great explaination. its helping. im doing a math project about diehard randomness test. can you help me to understand
of the test that is called birthday spacing test?

42. Melissa says:

Your formula P(different) = e to the power of (22*23/2*365) is incorrect. If you punc that in to a TI-83 plus, youll get
zero as an answer. You need 22*23 in its own bracket and the same for the 2*365. The division sign would stay outside of
the two brackets, in the middle. It should really look like this: P(different) = e to the power of (22*23)/(2*365). It took
my forever to understand what was wrong with the equations until I nally clicked very close and say the other
calculations. Haha. Hope this helps anyone who was as confused as I was. I thought my TI-83 was broken! (:

43. Caro says:

Umm, Im not a mathamatician so please excuse me if this is a stupid comment. I understand the principle behind the
calculations. I even agree that they are correct. However, one thing which seems to me to be incorrect is the assumption
that birthdays are prefectly evenly distributed throughout the year. An equal weight (likelyhood) is being assigned to
each day of the year. I think in reality that there are far more birthdays at certain times of the year, and therefore on
certain days of the year (9 months after xmas, valentines day, etc.) I dont see anywhere where this is being included into
the calculations. Can you explain? Thanks.

44. Kalid says:

@Caro: Great question! Yes, you are absolutely right we currently assume that birthdays are distributed evenly. To
simplify the problem, we ignore the possibility that birthdays could have a certain spread realistically, it may be
slightly more than 23 birthdays to account for this. But, I doubt the real distribution is very much different from the ideal
one (certain holidays only celebrated in certain countries, etc.) so it might all average out reasonably. But thats a great
point to bring up.

45. hemant singh yadav (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-birthday-paradox/) says:

rst i got a bit confused
dat wat d helll is birthday paradox
but after reading dis
it is damn easy
thank U
very much

46. jOHHN says:

In our retirement village we have a birthday book, which contains about 80 names. The birthdays are read out each
month to a gathering of about 25 people. If a certain person is there the same time as me,we have a match. Otherwise.

47. The corrector says:

Please stop confusing people. Lets stop the confusion all over the world with this annoyingly wrong principal. I dont
mean computatively wrong. I mean, it is wrong to call it the birthday principal. It is a number principal with 365 set
numbers principal.
This problem has been confusing people for the longest time, because no one will explain that it does not do what people
think it is supposed to do. Which is calculate the odds that 365 people in a room will nd someone else with their
The problem itself is actually very easy to understand. Even I can understand it and I never learned any advanced math.
The equation is cheating. It has nothing to do with any applicable birthdays. There is no reason to delete each match
after it is made.

48. The corrector says:

This is not a paradox. This is a simple math problem, and its title confuses people into thinking that something
impossible is happening, when its not, they are just being confused by an incorrectly named title of a principal.

49. Gavin says:

Old thread, but still interesting. Heres a simpler way of doing it look at your Facebook birthdays, how many shared
birthdays are there?
Indeed, export your friends birthdays, pick a sample of 23, and see if they match up quite surprising!
50. Kat says:
LOL! At rst I thought about my classroom, and instinct said how unlikely it was that two people had the same birthday,
and then I realized we had a set of twins

51. Kalid says:

@Kat: Hah, an even easier way to see it in action

52. Andy says:

Your equation right after you mention the multiplication looks pretty ugly looks like it could be computed using
factorial(!) notation, which many scienti c calculators have:
But 365! is likely too big for many calculators to handle.

53. Kalid says:

@Andy: Great point and yep, probably much too large for normal calculators.

54. James Smith (http://www.smithware.co.uk) says:

@gavin I went ahead and created a Facebook app to show the Birthday Paradox with your friends:
http://apps.facebook.com/thebirthdayparadox/ (http://apps.facebook.com/thebirthdayparadox/)

55. Nathan says:

and then sometimes I put too much egg white into the batter.
oh dang it!! Wrong website!!

56. Joe says:

On average, Facebook members have befriended 130 other Facebook members, which means there is nearly 100% chance
that every average member of Facebook shares a birthday with a person on his/her friend list. If any staff member from
Facebook is listening, Id like to know if the outcome matches the theory!

57. kalid says:

@Joe: Actually, in this case it means among your 130 friends its almost a 100% chance that two of them share a birthday
(not necessarily with you though! Friend A and friend B could have a birthday in common).

58. sonny says:

Why doesnt the following work :
We start with the rst person in the group. The probability of another person in the group with the same birthday is
22/365 (since the probability of any one person having the same birthday is 1/365 and these are independent
probabilities). Then we go to the next person. There is 21/365 chance of nding another person in the group with the
same birthday. The next one is 20/365 and so on. And since these are all independent if each other we can add the
probabilities, which gives us 253/365. This is the probability of nding 2 people in the group with the same bday.
What am I missing here?

59. kalid says:

@sonny: You cant add the probabilities :). By that reasoning, if we had 30 people in the group, the chance would be (1 +
2 + + 30) / 365 = 435 / 365, which is greater than 1. It is the right idea to consider each pair, though.

60. sonny says:

Thanks Khalid. So is there a way to solve solve this without using the negative.. that is not by calculating the probability
of someone else in the group not having the same bday? Do it directly instead?

61. kalid says:

@sonny: Great question I dont think my probability knowledge is strong enough :). The issue is you need to
enumerate every possible type of collision: 1 with 3, 1 and 2 with 3, 1 and 3 and 14 all of which are problem scenarios.
Its a bit like writing a spellcheck where you keep track of the possible typos vs. having the correct word and seeing if
what you wrote is different from that :).

62. Chris says:

THis is great your the bomb man, how did you gure this our, science fair project here we go

63. kalid says:

@Chris: Glad you liked it.

64. Jamal says:

Im no mathematician but I am very intrigued by it . I have come up with a simple answer for this problem for thoughs
who think in a way I do. I start off by assuming that there is on average 30 days in each month so imagine a calendar with
30 days so dont imagine the speci c days but when you think that each month has the same numbers it actually makes
more since so instead of writing all the math think in normal ration terms. If you get 23 people in a room with the same
birth number not month then you know you have about a 23 out of 30 chance not thats pretty high well theres only 12
months and thoughs chances slim down a bit but anyway thats my quick thought on it

65. roy says:

Hi, Kalid. I loved this post. Very interesting stuff!
I work with someone who was born on the same day in the same year in the same state only a few hours away (opposite
coast from current residence) and only 23 hours apart. What are the chances?

66. kalid says:

@Jamal: Interesting way to think about it breaking it down by birth day and then birth month (might be easier to
see how common it is).
@roy: Thanks, glad you liked it! Wow there should be a name for that, virtual twin :).

67. Kat says:

Thank You for the awesome facts!!! I love it. Really helped with my algebra project xD.

68. kalid says:

@Kat: Thanks!

69. Kat says:

No problem. I totally understand this and Im only in 7th grade! woo hoo. But yea. Im gonna reccomend to my friends
some of them are doing the birthday paradox project too

Thanks again Kalid!

70. kalid says:

@Kat: Whoa, thats awesome youre getting this so early, youve got quite a head start! More than welcome!

71. Kristina says:

When I was in 7th grade my science teacher bet that there werent 2 people in our class of about 30 people who had the
same birthday. We laughed our butts off at him because right away we had a set of twins in the class. Even once we
removed them we all said our birthdays and we found the set of twins, me and a guy who all had the same birthday (Aug
3). There was also another pair of unrelated people who had the same birthday.

72. Don (http://rdi1.com) says:

The math is slightly awed in the respect that there are actually 366 days/year during leap years. Very interesting


73. Nathan says:

Went through entire grade school without anyone sharing my same birthday?
elementary K-6
secondary 7classes twice a year for another 6 years.
Some explain the chances of that happening?

74. kalid says:

@Don: True :). Might need to make slight adjustments or plug in 365.25 into the equation =)

75. kalid says:

@Kristina: Yep, with 30 people it starts to get pretty likely theres be an overlap! Pretty amazing.

76. kalid says:

@Nathan: The trick to remember is the paradox is about everyone else not getting overlaps either (i.e. Billy and Joey
could have an overlap, and it would count).

77. Mohammad says:

I need to calculate the probability of concurrency of 3 or more accident which are the same in the particular period. Is
there any way to do this?

there any way to do this?

78. ATo says:

Indeed only consider the scenarios were involved in. Thanks for the remanding.

79. Chris says:

OK, Im awful at math. Im writing a piece right now about Olympians sharing the same birthday. Every day I log on to the
of cial Olympic website and check the birthdays. There are roughly 10,960 athletes competing. From what my untrained
eye can tell, it averages to about 30 birthdays per day. Can anyone help me out and explain the math a little better for
me? Writing is my thing. Math makes my brain hurt. Thanks!

80. kalid says:

Hi Chris! Yep, for about 10,960 athletes youd expect 10960 / 365 ~ 30 birthdays per day. In a room (or speci c event), you
can use the formula to gure out the chance of at least two people having a common birthday. If a track heat has 12
people, theres a 16% chance of two people having the same birthday (see the formula at the bottom, but its 1
e^(-12*11/(2 * 365)).

81. Chris says:

Thanks Kalid! Thats perfect.
Heres what I came up with if anyone if interested. Just having some fun with numbers and the Olympics.
If I got something wrong, let me know.
http://tucsoncitizen.com/bear-down-and-blog/2012/08/02/happy-birthday-from-london-breaking-down-olympicbirthdays/ (http://tucsoncitizen.com/bear-down-and-blog/2012/08/02/happy-birthday-from-london-breaking-downolympic-birthdays/)

82. Abdul says:

In high school I recall my teacher explaining this paradox. She said theoretically if there were 23 students in our class,
the probability of two or more students have the same birthday is 50 percent. So my question is, in a class everyone is
born in the same year would this reduce the probablity?

83. kalid says:

@Abdul: Great question. Offhand, I dont think people being born in the same year should change things.

84. Shambhu says:

Solution below is much simpler. Just nd probabilty of each one having diff Bday and then subtract from 1 to get
0.507297234 answer. Any thoughts?
1 -0.492702766 = 0.507297234

85. kalid says:

@Shambhu: Yep, that works! But its a pain to compute manually. The formula in Appendix A gives a shortcut vs. having
to do all those 23 multiplications out.

86. Grey Matters (http://headinside.blogspot.com/) says:

I think you discount the formula at the beginning of Appendix A (1-1*(1-1/365)*(1-2/365)*) too much by jumping
immediately into an approximate shortcut. Lets see what happens if we simplify that equation rst.
The denominator of the equation is simple to work out its 365 multiplied by itself as many times as there are people.
For x people, the denominator will be 365^x.
The numerator also has a familiar pattern. For x people, It will be 365*364*363**365-x.
So, we have a pattern something like a factorial, but that stops after x numbers. How do we handle that? Yep, its our old
friend the permutation formula!
So, the short form of the formula would be P(365,x)/365^x. Writing the long form of the formula, we end up with:
Prefer to think of it with combinations instead of permutations? Permutations are just combinations with redundancies
taken into account to focus on particular orders of events, or mathematically: P(365,x)=(C(365,x))x!
This makes the full formula: ((C(365,x))x!)/365^x
Yes the formula you write out at the start of Appendix A looks bad, but it simpli es quickly to a clear and understandable
form. Examining it several ways in terms of combinations and permutations helps make it clearer.

87. Grey Matters (http://headinside.blogspot.com/) says:

As I wrote the formula above, that is, of course, the formula for no 2 people sharing a birthday.
To nd the probability of at least 2 people sharing a birthday, as mentioned, we still need to subtract all that from 1.

88. evelyn says:

im doing the project too

89. Kris says:

I was wanting to take leap day into account and so I gured I should use 365.25
And by the way my sample size is 50 people

And by the way my sample size is 50 people

Would this work
so 1225 combinations
so 99.7264022 is the chance of a combination not matching
so 3.48 is the chance that all 1225 combinations dont match
so 96.5131327 is the cance of at least one of them matching
That is how I worked it out and Im not sure if it is correct so help me out please.

90. Kris says:

I just realized that in my math I used 364.5 and 365.5 instead of 364.25 and 365.25 and that messed it up, but if I change
that, did I have the right idea?
Haha. Oops.

91. Mark Goldman (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-birthday-paradox/) says:

Thanks so much the explanation. I apologizeIm confused on one point which indicates: we could list the pairs and
count all the ways they could match. But thats hard: there could be 1, 2, 3 or even 23 matches!
I dont understand why wouldnt the limit on matches be 22? The target cant match with himself, (or can he?) Sorry,
Im sure Im missing something obvious.
we could list the pairs and count all the ways they could match. But thats hard: there could be 1, 2, 3 or even 23

92. Shark says:

Something doesnt add up here. The rst calculator shows that the birthday example with 365 persons would result in a
100% match, meaning at least 2 persons should have the same birthday. But its possible that all 365 persons have
different birthdays (the rst person born on January 1, the second on January 2 and the last on December 31).

93. Kalid says:

Hi Mark, great catch. Yes, that should be 22 matches, appreciate the correction.
Hi Shark the equation is a probabilistic argument. In fact, you hit 100% (i.e., the limit of the javascript programming
language) at around 90 people. At that point, the difference between 99.9999999 and 100.0 is too small to represent on
the computer!
So it is theoretically possible to have 365 random people with 365 different birthdays. Practically, at around 100
randomly chosen people, you are virtually guaranteed to have a match (i.e., the probability of not having one is tiny, too
small to be shown on a computer :)).

94. Mark Goldman says:

Khalid-thanks for the clari cation and the websiteits a remarkable service and resource.

95. Steve Williams says:

This is the best webpage on the Birthday Paradox that Ive found!
We are doing an elementary school science project. We picked the Birthday Paradox and did 40 trials (using mostly the
internet) and came out with the expected (though counter-intuitive) result of about 50% pairs.
Now weve gotten to writing the conclusion of the report and realize that the answer involves apparently college-level
math! Question: is there a simpli ed way to explain the paradox, at least to hint at why it works, that a smart elementary
school student could understand?

96. kalid says:

Hi Steve, great question. I might try this: put the kids in groups of 10 and have them guess (before they start) how many
handshakes they need so everyone in the group shakes hands. They might guess 10 (or 9, since thats how many THEY
need to do), but youll see its quite a large number (10*9/2 = 45). In the same way, the number of birthdays to check is
not you against everyone else (22), but everyone by everyone (a much larger number). In rough terms, thats why the odds
are much closer to 50-50 instead of 22/365.

97. Karim Mohammed IB STUDENT says:

I used the Birthday Paradox concept in a math project of mine, and they told me some professor objected to it cause its
his idea. It was my research and they were my results and raw data. What do you think i should do, submit it or change it?

98. Jim says:

So if I ask 23 people to pick a number between 1 and 365, theres a 50% chance that at least two of them would choose the
same number. This is the scariest thing Ive ever heard of.

99. Shawn Keenan says:

My son used the birthday paradox for his science fair project. I do have one question. Is it possible to calculate the odds
of 3 people in a group of 25 having the same birthday (month/day)? Could I do this using Appendix C, by simply changing
the /2 to /3 in the R3 line {pairs = (people * (people -1)) / 2}?

100. KGW says:

100. KGW says:

My 3rd grade daughter is testing the birthday paradox for a science fair project. The math itself is a little dif cult, but
testing the paradox is easier to understand. We have tested 14 samples and 12 samples produced a birthday match.
Wouldnt you expect it to be closer to half the samples? Is there an optimal sample size? I saw someone mention they did
40 samples.

101. kalid says:

Hi KGW, not sure what you mean about samples. I.e., you tested 14 samples (of 23 people), and of those 14 samples, 12
had a match? Yep, in theory it should be about half, but with a relatively small population, its easy to skew. Also, in the
real world, birthdays probably arent perfectly evenly distributed, and the clumpiness may make matches easier.
For the purposes of the paradox though, its still startling that such small groups have so many matches! (So I think the
experiment still makes that point :)).

102. Ron says:

I just completed the following survey: I asked people in the of ce to pick a number between 1 and 365 inclusive. I moved
around of ce so nobody could hear any other persons response.
It took 20 tries before one person matched an earlier response! Interestingly, the 18th person and the 20th person I asked
picked 6. So, if I had chosen the respondents in a different order, I could have gotten the match earlier.

103. Lenoxus says:

If youre interested in triples a room with 88 or more people has an over-50% chance of at least one birthday being
held by at least three people. For a room with 733 or more people, its guarenteed! (Per the pigeonhole principle.
Hypothetically, a room of 732 people could consist of 366 pairs of people each sharing a birthday unique to that pair. The
next person to walk into the room must have a birthday belonging to one of the pairs.)
Ive been trying and failing to solve the problem for uneven distributions, such as if we assume all birthdays except Leap
Day are equally likely and Leap Day is 25% as likely as the rest. There doesnt seem to exist a simple formula for it on the

104. paul says:

I always explain it with a dartboard example. Put up a dartboard with 365 squares on it, put on a blindfold, and start
throwing. You can start to see that randomly hitting it will reduce the space that you can hit that has not been hut before.
Humans can see that analogy pretty well.

105. Trina says:

This is a wonderful website i learn alot from this

106. SAMAKSHI says:

Somebody explain i still dont get it

107. Lenoxus says:

The more people there are, the more opportunities for two of those people to share a birthday. When there are 23 people
in a room, the number of opportunities is SO big that the chances of a match between two people is better than half.
So about half of all 23-person rooms should be able to say Yes, two of the people in this room share a birthday.
Were not interested in a speci c birthday, such as January 15. Were asking about the situation where any two people
have a birthday in common.

It can help to remember that if there were 367 people in the room, then the chances we have a hit are not just very high,
but are actually 100%. EVERY room with 367 or more people has two or more people sharing a birthday. Thats because
the only other possibility is that there are 367 unique birthdays in that room, and there arent that many birthdays to go
What if there were 366 people? Then its possible they each have their own birthday (including a Leap Day birthday!), but
thats EXTREMELY unlikely. So the chances of a match are very close to 100%.
What if there were 365 people? Just a bit less. 364 people? Slightly less than that.
and so on, down to 23. At 23 people, the chances are just over 50%. At 22, they are below 50%. At 2, they are about
1/365, or well below 1%.
The whole thing is just a graph that curves differently than you might expect.

108. Clarkey says:

Great explanation.
For those who continue to doubt Mathematical equations (for some reason). I encourage you go to a random number
generator website such as random.org and choose the eld between 1 and 365. Write the numbers down and see how
many you write down before you get a match/repeated number.not long!
Where a lot of people seem to get confused and doubt the equation is that they are stuck on themselves (such as
comment 73)It is not the odds of YOU having the same number as someone else in the room, its the odds of anyone
having the same number as anyone, which you explained well. Great site.

109. Rickyvalle21 says:

Getting 10 heads in a row is actually .5^9 Because the .5 is accounting after you ipped a coin once.

Getting 10 heads in a row is actually .5^9 Because the .5 is accounting after you ipped a coin once.

110. Vince (http://-) says:

Exact and easy formula is:
P(at least one shared birthday) = 1 364!/((365^n-1)*(365-n)!)
= 1 365!/((365^n)*(365-n)!)
Where n is the number of people in the room, and 365 is used as the number of days, thus not taking into account leap
The formula was found by simplifying:
P = 1- 365/365 * 364/365 * * (365-(n-2))/365 * (365-(n-1))

111. spope says:

I dont see how the interactive example is correct. If you put 1000 items and only 142 people it says there is a 100%
chance of a match. Surely this isnt correct, for example if person 1 picked 1, person 2 picked 2, 3 picked 3 and so on up to
142 there wouldnt be a match. Not very likely I know but possible (in fact is it not just as possible as every other
selection?) , so there cant be 100% likelihood of a match. Plus there are many other combination that wouldnt create a
matching pair.
If you keep with the birthday example all you need is 86 people for 100% chance of a matching pair, but it is possible for
86 people all to have different birthdays so how can it be 100%.
Sorry if Im way off the mark, I just dont get it.

112. me says:
@spope I think it probably rounds.. so it would be 99.999102% (or something like that) so it rounds to 100%.. just a

113. Bo says:
The formula cant be exact. Using this formula, you would calculate a (though small) chance that in a room of 366 people
there would be not a single mutual birthday. This cant be correct as there are in this case more people than days in a
year. Therefore the possibility to have not a single same birthday should be as zero as it could ever be.

114. Sleat says:

Bo, good example. When you have 366 people the probability of everyone having different birthdays has a term which is
zero. When you multiply by this zero term you get zero, meaning a probability of one that two people share the same

115. Jenny Gilmore says:

How come towards the end you minus it from 1?

116. Clarkey says:

Hi Jenny,
When you are calculating, you are working out how many persons DONT have the same birthday as another. The minus
1 gives you your chances of another person having the same birthday.
1) 23 individuals x 22 partners = 506 couples. Divided by 2 for unique couples (i.eTom and Jane are the same couple of
Jane and Tom)
2) 364/365 (Days of the year someone might NOT have the same birthday as you) Yx 253 couples. = 0.4995, being the

chances of someone NOT having the same birthday as another person. -1 to view -0.5005which is only a quick way of
seeing the answer when the real equation is 1 0.4995 to give you your answer being 0.5005 (50.05% likely of someone
having the same birthday as another.

117. dan says:

I approached this by guring that there are 253 pairs and each pair has a 1/365 chance of having the same birthday. The
probability that at least one pair would have the same birthday is 253*(1/365). Where is the aw in my reasoning?

118. anonymous (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-birthday-paradox/) says:

In a room of 32 people a teacher pickedv a pupil at random. What is the probability of him picking someone with the
same birthday as him?

119. Lenoxus says:

dan: There are two problems with your approach.
One is that you are treating the probabilities as independent when they arent. Consider just three people: A, B, and C.
There are three pairs out of these people (AB, AC, BC). By itself, the probability that a given pair has the same birthday is
1/365. But if AB shares a birthday, and BC shares a birthday, then the probability that AC shares a birthday is not 1/365
but simply 1. However, for the sake of a simple estimate this fact doesnt make much difference, because with only 23
people, triple-birthdays are very rare.
The second problem is that independent probabilities dont work that way you cant just add them up. The probability
of rolling a one on a 6-sided die is 1/6. But the probability of rolling at least 1 one out of two dice is not 2/6. If it worked
that way, then rolling 6 dice would give us a probability of 6/6, or 1 not only guaranteeing at least 1 one, but at least 1
of every number, since all of the numbers are equivalent here. Of course it doesnt work that way if I roll six dice,
getting a straight of all the numbers is extremely unlikely, not guaranteed.
Instead, you work out the dice probabilities by asking the opposite question: What is the probability of rolling anything

Instead, you work out the dice probabilities by asking the opposite question: What is the probability of rolling anything
but a one? With two dice, there are ve-times- ve equally-likely ways to do this (as if the dice only had 5 sides): a two
and a two, a two and a three, etc, all the way to a six and a six. And here are 36 total equally-likely possible combinations:
one-one, one-two, and so on. So our answer to this question is 25/36. That means the answer to our original question is
just 1-25/36, or 11/36.
Getting back to the birthdays, the way to determine the probability with 23 people is not to add the independent
probabilities, because then you get a false guarantee of a pair at 28 people (there are 378 pairs, so you would nd a
probability of 378/365 for a pair, and that number cant even be right in itself probabilities should never exceed 1).
Instead, we do multiplication, and what we multiply is the inverse scenario: 364/365, or the probability that two people
dont share a birthday.

We multiply this number by itself 253 times (in other words, raise it to the 253rd power). The result is a number slightly
less than 1/2: 0.4995. This means that the probability for the reverse question is slightly more than 1/2, about 0.5005.
However, this is slightly off because of the non-independence factor. The more correct way to calculate it is to build the
sets of possible rooms that lack matches, and this isnt as hard as you might think. (Its simpler to understand than the
methods shown in the blog post.)
The rst person who enters the room is permitted to have any of 365 birthdays. The second person we put into it is only
allowed one of 364 birthdays, because they cant be a match. The third person is allowed one of 363 birthdays, because
she cant match either of the rst two. All these possibilites multiply out, for the twenty-three people: 365 x 364 x 363x
362 x 361 x 345 x 344 x 343.
Thats our numerator: The total set of equally-likely combinations that ful ll a principle of lacking any matched pairs.
For our denominator, we need the total set of possible combinations in general, and that would be 365 x 365 x 365 x 365
twenty-three times.
The resultant number is about 0.4927 which, as before, is just under one-half. Hence, although we have a more precise
probability, we still nd that the same number of people (23) is the threshold here.

120. Clarkey says:

Anonymous (Ref Comment 118)
Your example is different from the birthday paradox. Your example asks what the probability is of someone having the
same birthday as a speci c personas opposed to someone having the same birthday as anyone in the room.
To answer your questionyou could have 10,000 people in a room it doesnt make a difference.the odds of picking a
singular pupil at random and them having the same birthday as you is 1/365 (not halved again as some may think, as you
are trying to match a pre-existing speci c number)
Hope that makes sense?

121. Shubham Kumar says:

Sir, I read it before the heading Interactive Example and hats off to you. You have explained it so nicely, that it can
actually feel what is happening in this paradox!
Thanks a lot sir!

122. Josh says:

It is actually much easier than what is explained here.
The rst person could have any birthday during the year.
This would be 365/365
The second could only have one birthday that matched (regardless of the number of people in the class.
This would be 1/365
Using the multiplication rule of probabilities that one event AND another will occur:
365/365 x 1/365
1 x 0.00274

123. Clarkey says:

Sorry Josh, but it isnt that simple and you are actually wrong. How do you use that equation to get 50.05% probability?
Certainly not having a go here, as this is what the website is about. However:
1) the example you use doesnt give an answer to the actual question involving 23 people.
2) using your calculations is not the calculation of probably as you have the potential to get an answer greater than 1,
which in this circumstance you should never have an answer greater than 1, that just isnt probability you need to look
at the chances of someone NOT having the same birthday as someone else and work from there.

124. Josh says:

Straight from my Statistics class and WebAssign:
Same Birthday: Suppose two people are randomly selected from a class of 35 students. What is the probability that they
have the same birthday? Round your answer to 3 signi cant digits*.
WebAssign will check your answer for the correct number of signi cant gures.0.00274
Correct: Your answer is correct.
seenKey 0.00274
*Signi cant Digits: Here are some probabilities expressed to 3 signi cant digits.
You start counting digits from left to right starting with the rst non-zero digit.

You start counting digits from left to right starting with the rst non-zero digit.
0.123 0.0123 0.00123 0.102 0.350 0.300
Solution or Explanation
This is tricky because it doesnt matter how large the class is. Also, it doesnt matter what the rst persons birthday is.
The probability that the second person has the same birthday is
= 0.0027397 0.00274
to three signi cant digits.

125. Clarkey says:

Josh.it matter immensely how big the classroom is
Under your example of 35 people you have 1190 pairs (35x 34).factor in that is pair is twice (1:you & I, 2: myself and
you) and you have 595 unique pairs.
lets go PROBABILITY calculations now.
Chances of someone NOT having the same birthday as the other
364/365 = 0.997260274. Ans y 595 = 0.1954649. 1 0.1954649
Chances of two people having the same birthday is 80.4536%
Use the same maths as above for 25 people and indeed you get you 50.05%.
In your calculation you havent factored in the most important part of the calculation.the amount of people in the

126. Chezni says:

In two of my class (one a class of 20 and the other class of 21), there are two other people that share the same birthday as
me, so 3 total. I nd that really weird.

127. Anonymous says:

why is 23 the number of people required for a probability of 50 % of two people having the same birthday? its my
homework question^

128. Anonymous says:

Dont make sense

129. Trigtf says:

All depents on how frequently those births happen. Look at the below diagram, http://www.todaysparent.com/blogs/onour-minds/birthdays-most-common/ (http://www.todaysparent.com/blogs/on-our-minds/birthdays-most-common/), the
actual probability for someone to have a birth in a certain date is not equal for all 365 days. There are factors, we dont
know (probably weather , moon etc), that pushes a lot of people to have birth in Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep, Oct. So that explains
the probabilty to have 2 people in a class with same birthdate since most people are between those months, like 80% are
in that range of 150 days.

130. HyperThreading says:

Why you, for x!, do not use Stirling formula: x!=x^(x+0.5)*exp(x+1/(12*x)-1/(360*x^3)+1/(1260*x^5)-1/(1680*x^7)+1/(1188*x^9) ), (x do not need to be whole number, but it have to
be greater than, say, 10) so something like n!/((n-m)!*n^m) (n=365, m=23, for example), may look like (n/(n-m))^(nm+0.5)*exp(-m+(1/n-1/(n-m))/12-(1/n^3-1/(n-m)^3)/360)+), and this way it is not problematic to calculate
complementary probability? After that you subtract that from one and Of cause IEEE oat format is not accurate
enough for this formula, and it does not allow argument of exponential function to have absolute value greater than 88
or so, but that is a story for another day

131. HyperThreading says:

so 1000!/(858! * 1000^142) is 2.69985824e-5, and probability that among 142 items that share 1000 unique item
numbers two or more have the same item number is 99.99730014176% (the last digit is rounded up), and it is not so
close to 100%, even for IEEE oat format, to be rounded to 100%

132. HyperThreading says:

I am sory, but I forgot to mention that exp(-142) is too small for IEEE oat. I swear: no more comments from me in a
foreseeable future

133. Kat says:

Thats confusing.

134. Anon says:

The probability of at least two people sharing a birthday in a group of 22 people is about 50.72972343239854072, not
50.05%. Kalids method faultily assumes that the probability any pair sharing a birthday is independent of the probability
of another pair sharing a birthday, which is not the case because the pairs contain some of the same people. The exact
probability of at least 2 people sharing a birthday out of a group of x people can be calculated by the formula
365Px/365^x, or 365!/((365-x)! 365^x).

135. Anon says:

Correction: the above is the probability of at least two people sharing a birthday out of a group of 23, not 22, people.

136. Jeff says:

You really want to blow someones mind?

You really want to blow someones mind?

with a true random selection of 230 people, merely ten times the birthday paradox, theres almost a 50% chance of not
only having two people with the same birthday but two people with the same birthDATE. (with a 100 year pool.)

Mathematically, it says that number is 191.11 (365.2425*100 = 36524.25 sqrt(36524.25) = 191.113186)

However realistically, it doesnt close in on 50% until you get above 220s
[365.2425 is the actual days per year to take leap years into consideration.]
And if the people are randomly selected from a certain pool such as a college population the chances increase greatly,
Isnt math fun?

137. Deborah karr says:

And if your population group was born born nine months after a natural disaster ?? ?? No electricity for the television,
doesnt everything get skewed ? ? ? ? ?

138. syed says:

I understand the math part of this question but I have to answer this question in sort of algorithm way because we are
using computers so can someone help me.

139. hahahaha says:

u suck

140. ur mom says:


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In This Series
1. A Brief Introduction to Probability & Statistics (http://betterexplained.com/articles/a-brief-introduction-to-probability-statistics/)
2. How To Analyze Data Using the Average (http://betterexplained.com/articles/how-to-analyze-data-using-the-average/)
3. An Intuitive (and Short) Explanation of Bayes' Theorem (http://betterexplained.com/articles/an-intuitive-and-short-explanation-ofbayes-theorem/)
4. Understanding Bayes Theorem With Ratios (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-bayes-theorem-with-ratios/)
5. Understanding the Birthday Paradox (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-birthday-paradox/)
6. Understanding the Monty Hall Problem (http://betterexplained.com/articles/understanding-the-monty-hall-problem/)

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