PermutationsSuppose we want to find the number of ways to arrange the three letters in the word CAT in different two-letter groups where CA is different from AC and there are no repeated letters.Because order matters, we're finding the number of permutations of size 2 that can be taken from a set of size 3. This is often written 3_P_2. We can list them as:
Now let's suppose we have 10 letters and want to make groupings of 4 letters. It's harder to list all those permutations. To find the number of four-letter permutations that we can make from 10 letters without repeated letters (10_P_4), we'd like to have a formula because there are 5040 such permutations and we don't want to write them all out! For four-letter permutations, there are 10 possibilities for the first letter, 9 for the second, 8 for the third, and 7 for the last letter. We can find the total number of different four-letter permutations by multiplying 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 = 5040. This is part of a factorial (see note). To arrive at 10 x 9 x 8 x 7, we need to divide 10 factorial (10 because there are ten objects) by (10-4) factorial (subtracting from the total number of objects from which we're choosing the number of objects in each permutation). You can see below that we can divide the numerator by 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1:
10! 10! 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1From this we can see that the more general formula for finding the number of permutations of size k taken from n objects is:
n!For our CAT example, we have:
3! 3 x 2 x 1We can use any one of the three letters in CAT as the first member of a permutation. There are three choices for the first letter: C, A, or T. After we've chosen one of these, only two choices remain for the second letter. To find the number of permutations we multiply: 3 x 2 = 6. Note: What's a factorial? A factorial is written using an exclamation point - for example, 10 factorial is written 10! - and means multiply 10 times 9 times 8 times 7... all the way down to 1. CombinationsWhen we want to find the number of combinations of size 2 without repeated letters that can be made from the three letters in the word CAT, order doesn't matter; AT is the same as TA. We can write out the three combinations of size two that can be taken from this set of size three:
10_P_4 10! 10!More generally, the formula for finding the number of combinations of k objects you can choose from a set of n objects is:
n!For our CAT example, we do the following:
3! 3 x 2 x 1 6 |