The binomial distribution formula can calculate the probability of success for binomial distributions. Often you’ll be told to “plug in” the numbers to the formula and calculate. This is easy to say, but not so easy to do–unless you are very careful with order of operations, you won’t get the right answer. If you have a Ti-83 or Ti-89, the calculator can do much of the work for you. If not, here’s how to break down the problem into simple steps so you get the answer right–every time.
Step 1:: Read the question carefully. Sample question: “80% of people who purchase pet insurance are women. If 9 pet insurance owners are randomly selected, find the probability that exactly 6 are women.”
Step 2:: Identify ‘n’ and ‘X’ from the problem. Using our sample question, n (the number of randomly selected items) is 9, and X (the number you are asked to find the probability for) is 6.
Step 3: Work the first part of the formula. The first part of the formula is
n! / (n – X)! X!
Substitute your variables:
9! / ((9 – 6)! × 6!)
Which equals 84. Set this number aside for a moment.
Step 4: Find p and q. p is the probability of success and q is the probability of failure. We are given p = 80%, or .8. So the probability of failure is 1 – .8 = .2 (20%).
Step 5: Work the second part of the formula.
Set this number aside for a moment.
Step 6: Work the third part of the formula.
q(n – X)
Step 7: Multiply your answer from step 3, 5, and 6 together.
84 × .262144 × .008 = 0.176.