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Stat 305, Fall 2014


Chapter 5.1: Discrete Random Variables (part II)

Specific Discrete Distributions
We will talk about 3 well known discrete distributions
Binomial Distribution
Geometric Distribution
Poisson Distribution
Assumptions used for many discrete distributions: the trials are independent, identical,
success-failure, i.e.
There is a constant chance of success on each repetition of the scenario (call the
probability of success p)
Repetitions are independent: knowing the outcome of any one of them does not change
assessments of chance related to others
Each distribution comes with REQUIRED values you need to know to use the distribution,
called parameters:

Binomial Distribution
Situation: suppose we have n independent trials each with fixed probability of success, p.
If X = the number of successes in n independent, identical trials then we say X has the
Binomial(n,p) distribution.
n and p are the parameters
p specifies the probability of success, i.e. P [success] = p, 0 p 1
n specifies the number of independent and identical trials
Shorthand notation: X Bin(n, p)

(n choose x)
Suppose there are 5 seats left in the front of a movie theater. How many ways are there for
5 friends to sit if 3 of them are girls? (only paying attention to the gender)
They could sit Girl, Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl (i.e. {G,B,G,B,G}) or {G,G,G,B,B} or
{G,B,B,G,G}. Notice that once we pick where the girls are sitting, the boys just sit
in the other 2 spots.
Now lets give these friends some names. The girls: Caroline, Adelle, and Priya. The
boys: Boyd and Victor. For Caroline to sit down, there are 5 spots, for Adelle, there
are 4 spots left, and for Priya, there are 3 spots. This means there are 5 4 3 =
= 60 ways to have 3 girls sit down.
(5 3)!
These 60 possible seating arrangements distinguish between the order Caroline, Adelle,
Priya, Boyd, Victor (i.e. {C,A,P,B,V}) and {C,P,A,B,V}, but to us those are both
{G,G,G,B,B}. [Note: {C,A,P,B,V} and {C,A,P,V,B} are already treated as being the
same] So we need to divide that 60 by the number of different ways those 3 girls can
sit in those 3 seats. So if we just look at the 3 girls seats, there are 3 places Caroline
can sit, 2 places Adelle can sit, and 1 place left for Priya. This is 3 2 1 = 3! = 6
So the total number of ways for 5 friends to sit if 3 are girls is
= 10
3!(5 3)!
In general, the number of ways to choose x objects from n
x!(n x)!
This is called Combinatorics, often denoted nCr on a calculator, ways to choose r objects
from n

Binomial pmf
The probability of getting 3 heads and 2 tails (in one particular order) is p3 (1 p)2 where
p is the probability of heads.
There are n choose x (or 5 choose
  3) different orders to get 3 heads and 2 tails.
5 3
So the probability that X=3 is
p (1 p)2 = 10p3 (1 p)2
For X Bin(5, p), what about:
P (X = 0)

P (X = 1)

P (X = 2)

Symmetry in Binomial
Note that n choose x is symmetric

x!(n x)!
(n x)!x!
For example
This leads to the following:

Binomial Mean and Variance

Mean and variance of the Binomial(n,p) distribution.
= E[X] =


= Var[X] =

n x
xf (x) =
p (1 p)nx = np

(x E(X)) f (x) =


n x
p (1 p)nx = np(1 p)
(x np)

Binomial Example 5.3

A multiple choice quiz has 10 questions each with 4 alternatives. A student forgot to study
and wished to get at least 3 correct. What is the probability this will occur if he guesses
on every question? What is the probability he gets 9 or more correct?

Find E(X), Var(X), and the standard deviation of X.

Binomial Example 5.5

In an experiment to evaluate a new artificial sweetener, ten subject are all asked to taste cola
from three unmarked glasses, two of which contain regular cola while the third contains cola
made with the new sweetener. The subjects are asked to identify the glass whose content
is different from the other two.
Note: If there is no difference between the taste of the sugar and the taste of the new
sweetener, then the subjects would be just guessing.
If seven of the ten subjects correctly identify the artificial sweetener, is this outcome strong
evidence of a taste difference? Explain.

Geometric Distribution
If X = the number of trials required to obtain the first success. Then X follows a Geometric
distribution with probability of success p.
p is the only parameters. p specifies the probability of success. (Same as before.)
Shorthand notation: X Geo(p)
Mean: E(X) =


Variance: Var(X) =



Geometric Example
Assume we know that over his career, Shaquille ONeal makes 53.6% of his free throws.
1. Find the probability that Shaquille ONeal misses his first two free throws and makes
his third.

2. Compute the number of free throws we would expect him to have to do until he makes
a free throw.

Poisson Distribution
Used to model (describe) count data (i.e. # of events, outcomes of interest, or objects) for
which the possible number of counts is theoretically infinite.
If X = number of occurrences of a rare event. Then X follows a Poisson distribution with
parameter .
is the only parameters. specifies the mean or rate of occurrence.
Shorthand notation: X Poi()
Mean: E(X) =
Variance: Var(X) =

Poisson Example 1
An injection molding process for making auto bumpers leaves an average of 1.3 visual defects
per bumper prior to painting. Let Y and Z be the respective numbers of visual defects on
the next two bumpers produced.
Evaluate the following:
1. P [Y = 2]

2. P [Y 1]

3. Var(Y) and sd(Y)

4. P [Y + Z 2]

Poisson Example 2
A process for making plate glass produces an average of four seeds (small bubbles) per 100
square feet. Use Poisson distributions and assess probabilities that:
1. A particular piece of glass 10 ft by 10 ft will contain 4 seeds.

2. A particular piece of glass 5 ft by 10 ft will contain more than two seeds.

3. A particular piece of glass 5 ft by 5 ft will contain one seed.

Putting It All Together

Keys to deciding whether to use Binomial, Geometric or Poisson for count data:
How many possible counts are there?
A pre-specified number of independent trials?
An infinite possibility?
Are you counting total number of successes or stopping at the first?

1. The potholes on a major highway in the city of Chicago occur at the rate of 2 per
mile. Let X = the number of potholes over 3 miles of randomly selected highway.
(a) How many potholes should we expect to encounter in the randomly selected 3
miles of highway?

(b) Name the distribution that X follows.

(c) Compute the probability that there are 6 or more potholes.

2. Suppose that once a given 3-mile section of highway has 6 or more potholes, the road
must be closed and repaired. Let Y = the number of 3-mile sections of highway over
a stretch of 30 miles (that is, the next ten 3-mile sections) that will have to be closed
due to pothole criteria.
(a) Name the distribution that Y follows.

(b) Compute the probability that exactly 5 of the 10 sections must be repaired.

(c) Give the mean and variance of Y.

3. Finally, let Z = the number of 3-mile sections of highway that we pass through until
a section is closed due to pothole criteria.
(a) State the distribution of Z.

(b) Find the probability that you pass three 3-mile sections of highway until a section
is closed.

(c) Find the mean and variance of the distribution.