You are on page 1of 3

Normal approximation to Binomial distribution

We had known that Poisson distribution can be used to approximate the binomial distribution for
large values of n and small values of p provided that the correct conditions exist. The
approximation is only of practical use if just a few terms of the Poisson distribution need be
calculated. In cases where many or sometimes several hundred terms need to be calculated the
arithmetic involved becomes very tedious indeed and we turn to the normal distribution for help.
It is possible, of course, to use high-speed computers to do the arithmetic but the normal
approximation to the binomial distribution negates this in a fairly elegant way. In the problem
situations following this introduction, the normal distribution is used to avoid very tedious
arithmetic while at the same time giving a very good approximate solution.
In this topic, we consider the normal approximation to the binomial distribution. Since the
binomial is a discrete probability, this may seem to go against the intuition. However, a limiting
process is involved, keeping p of the binomial distribution fixed and letting n . The
approximation is known as DeMoivre-Laplace approximation.
We recall the binomial distribution as

Stirlings approximation to n! is

The error

as n . Using Sterlings formula to approximate the terms involving n! in the binomial model,
we eventually find that, for large n,

so that

This result make sense in the light of the central limit theorem and the fact that X is the sum of
independent Bernoulli trials. Thus, the quantity ( X np ) / approximately has a N(0,1)
distribution. If p is close to 0.5 and n > 10, the approximation is fairly good. However, for the
other values of p, the value of n must be larger.
In general, experience indicates that the approximation is fairly good as long as np > 5 for p
0.5 or when nq > 5 when p > 0.5

Problem:
Steel bars are made to a nominal length of 4cm but in fact the length is a normally distributed
random variable with mean 4.01cm and standard deviation 0.03. Each steel bar costs 6p to
make and may be used immediately if its length lies between 3.98cm and 4.02cm. If its length is
less than 3.98cm the steel bar cannot be used but has a scrap value of 1p. If the length exceeds
4.02cm it can be shortened and used at a further cost of 2p.
Find the average cost per usable steel bar.
Solution:
Total of steel bars = 100 steel bars
X~N

( 4.01, 0.032 )

Cost has 2 possible values per usable steel bar, 6p, 8p.

P(C=6) = P(3.98 < X < 4.02)

=P

(0< Z < 4.013.98


)
0.03

+P

(0< Z < 4.024.01


0.03 )

= P(0< Z < 1) + P(0 < Z < 0.333)


= 0.3413 + 0.1305
= 0.4718 Amount of steel bars that cost 6p = 47.18

P(C=8) = P(X > 4.02)


= P(Z > 0.333)
= 0.5 - P(0 < Z < 0.333)
= 0.3695 Amount of steel bars that cost 8p = 36.95

Cost:
For usable steel bar cost 8p each, 36.95 steel bars x 8 = 295.6
For usable steel bar cost 6p each, 47.18 steel bars x 6 = 283.08
For non-usable steel bar cost 5p each, 100 - 36.95 - 47.18 = 15.87 steel bars x 5 =
79.35
Therefore,
average cost per usable steel bar =

295.6+ 283.08+79.35
=
36.95+47.18

658.03
=7.82
84.13