When dealing with the occurrence of more than one event (a compound event),
it is important to be able to quickly determine how many possible outcomes exist.
"What will be the size of the sample space?"

sundae For example, if ice cream sundaes come in 5 flavors with 4 possible toppings, how many different sundaes can be made with one flavor of ice cream and one topping?  
In an attempt to find the "count" of how many sundaes are possible, a tree diagram could be drawn or a list of all possible sample space entries could be created. Unfortunately, these processes can be very time consuming when dealing with a large number of options.
There is a
short cut method!
To count the combinations of ice cream and toppings, simply multiply the number of options for each event:    5 • 4 = 20 possible sundaes.
This simple multiplication process is known as the
Counting Principle.

The Fundamental Counting Principle:  If there are a ways for one event to occur, and b ways for a second event to occur,
then there are a • b ways for both to occur.  Just multiply!

NOTE: The Counting Principle only works when all of the choices are independent of each other.
One choice does not depend upon another choice.
If one choice affects another choice, then this simple multiplication process will not yield the correct answer.

Junior High Note: At this level, all of the events with which we deal are "independent" of one another, so we do not have to worry. We can rely on the Counting Principle to give us information about the sizes of our sample spaces.


Activities:  roll a die and flip a coin
     There are 6 ways to roll a die and 2 ways to flip a coin.
     There are 6 • 2 = 12 ways to roll a die and flip a coin.
     (The sample space will contain a count of 12 possible outcomes.)

2.  Activities:  draw a card from a deck of 52 cards, replace it, draw another card.
     There are 52 ways to draw the first card.
     There are 52 ways to draw the second card.
     There are 52 • 52 = 2,704 ways to draw the two cards. 
     (The sample space will contain a count of 2,704 possible outcomes.)
     Would not want to make a list or draw a tree diagram for this problem!!!!

The Counting Principle also works for more than two activities.  

3.  Activities:  a coin is tossed five times
     There are 2 ways to flip each coin.
     There are 2 • 2 • 2 • 2  •2 = 32 arrangements of heads and tails.
     (The sample space will contain a count of 32 possible outcomes.)

4.  Activities: a die is rolled four times
     There are 6 ways to roll each die.
     There are 6 • 6 • 6 • 6 = 1,296 possible outcomes.
     (The sample space will contain a count of 1,296 possible outcomes.)


The Counting Principle is easy!
the number of ways
each event can occur
to find the sample space count.

(events are independent)



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