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Permutation

An arrangement or listing in which order IS important.

Three people (Andrew, Betty, and Chris) are running a race. How many different
ways can they finish the race?

1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place


Andrew Betty Chris If you look across
Andrew Chris Betty this chart you can
Betty Andrew Chris see 6 different
Betty Chris Andrew ways that 3 people
Chris Andrew Betty could finish a race.
Chris Betty Andrew
Sometimes, there are too many possibilities to make an organized list.
You can figure out the answer to questions like this mathematically.

1) You are looking for 3 places (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) so draw 3 lines.

1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place

2) How many people have a chance of being first?

3
1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
3) How many people have a chance of being second?

3 2 If 1 of the 3 people has come in 1st, then there


are only 2 people left to finish 2nd.
1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
4) How many people have a chance of being third?

3 2 1 If 1 person has come in 1st, and another came


in 2nd, then there is only 1 person left to finish
1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place 3rd.

5) To find the number of different arrangements, multiply the three numbers


together.

3 ● 2 ● 1 = 6 ways
1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place

Permutation Notation and Formula


P(3,3) stands for a permutation of 3 things taken 3 at a time. In the
example above there were 3 things (Andrew, Betty, and Chris). We
were looking for 3 places, so that is how many times we needed to look
at our arrangement.

If we had a race with 8 people and we wanted to know how many


different ways they could finish in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, place we would write
P(8,3). P(8,3) stands for a permutation of 8 things (people) taken 3 at a
time (3 places).

To use the formula to find the number of permutations for the race with
8 runners:

1) Look at the notation. The second number shows you how many lines
to draw.

P(8,3) The second number is 3, so there will be 3 places.

1st 2nd 3rd


Place Place Place

2) Look at the notation. The first number shows you how many people
could finish in the first place. This number goes on the first line.

8
1st 2nd 3rd
Place Place Place

3) For each line, there is one less person left than the line before, so as
you fill in the lines, the numbers should decrease by 1 each time.

8 7 6
1 st
2nd
3rd
Place Place Place

4) Multiply all of the numbers together to find the total number of


permutations.

6 = 336
8 ● 7 ●
ways
1st 2nd 3rd
Place Place Place
One Last Example

There are 10 players on the girl’s softball team.


How many ways can the coach pick the first 5 batters?

This is a permutation of 10 things (players) taken 5 at a time (batters).


We would write this as P(10, 5).

1) Look at the notation. The second number shows you how many lines
to draw.

P(10, 5) The second number is 5, so there will be 5


batters.

Batter Batter Batter Batter Batter


1 2 3 4 5

2) Look at the notation. The first number shows you how many people
could finish in the first place. This number goes on the first line.

10
Batter Batter Batter Batter Batter
1 2 3 4 5

3) For each line, there is one less person left than the line before, so as
you fill in the lines, the numbers should decrease by 1 each time.

10 9 8 7 6
Batter Batter Batter Batter Batter
1 2 3 4 5

4) Multiply all of the numbers together to find the total number of


permutations.

8 ● 7 = 30,240
10 ● 9 ● ● 6
ways
Batter Batter Batter Batter Batter
1 2 3 4 5