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Combinations and permuations

13 Apr 2015

This post explains the distinction between combinations and permuations and how to calculate them.

  • If order doesn’t matter it is a combination e.g. fruit salad of melon, strawberry and bannanas.
  • If order does matter it is a permuation e.g. bike lock code. (Confusingly often called combination locks)!

Permuatations

Permutations with repition:

  • e.g. range of numbers a byte can encode, combination lock possibilities
  • $n$ things to choose from, $n$ choices each time
  • $r$ number of choices

Permutations without repition:

  • e.g. What order could 16 pool balls be in?
  • $n$ things to choose from $n$ choices the first time and then one less each time
  • If we choose $n$ times then the number of permutations is
  • e.g. If we only chose $r$ pool balls, we must remove some permutations

Combinations

Combinations without repition:

  • e.g. lotteries
  • Just like permutations, $n$ things to choose from $n$ choices the first time and then one less each time, however, this time the order does not matter.
  • Calculated by first calculating the permuations without repitition and then reducing it by how many ways the objects could be in order:

Combinations with repition:

  • e.g. Choose 3 scopes of 5 flavours of ice cream ($n = 5$, $r = 3$)
  • Just like permutations with repition, $n$ things to choose from, $n$ choices each time, however, this time the order does not matter.
  • Can be abstracted to the permuations without repitition probem. Imagine there are $r + (n - 1)$ positions and we choose $r$ of them to be $1$ and the other positions to be $0$.
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