In combinatorial mathematics, a combination of members of a set is a subset. A k-combination is a subset of S with k elements. The order of listing the elements is not important in combinations: two lists with the same elements in different orders are considered to be the same combination. The number of k-combinations or k-subsets of set with n elements is the binomial coefficient "n choose k", written as nCk, nCk or as
- or occasionally as C(n, k).
One method of deriving a formula for nCk proceeds as follows:
- Count the number of ways in which one can make an ordered list of k different elements from the set of n. This is equivalent to calculating the number of k-permutations.
- Recognizing that we have listed every subset many times, we correct the calculation by dividing by the number of different lists containing the same k elements:
(see factorial), we find
It is useful to note that C(n, k) can also be found using Pascal's triangle, as explained in the binomial coefficient article.
Combinations and permutations
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Last updated: 05-03-2005 09:00:33