# Connexions

You are here: Home » Content » Collaborative Statistics » Discrete Random Variables

### Recently Viewed

This feature requires Javascript to be enabled.

### Tags

(What is a tag?)

These tags come from the endorsement, affiliation, and other lenses that include this content.

Inside Collection (Textbook):

Textbook by: Barbara Illowsky, Ph.D., Susan Dean. E-mail the authors

# Discrete Random Variables

Summary: This module serves as the introduction to Discrete Random Variables in the Elementary Statistics textbook/collection.

## Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of this chapter, the student should be able to:

• Recognize and understand discrete probability distribution functions, in general.
• Calculate and interpret expected values.
• Recognize the binomial probability distribution and apply it appropriately.
• Recognize the Poisson probability distribution and apply it appropriately (optional).
• Recognize the geometric probability distribution and apply it appropriately (optional).
• Recognize the hypergeometric probability distribution and apply it appropriately (optional).
• Classify discrete word problems by their distributions.

## Introduction

A student takes a 10 question true-false quiz. Because the student had such a busy schedule, he or she could not study and randomly guesses at each answer. What is the probability of the student passing the test with at least a 70%?

Small companies might be interested in the number of long distance phone calls their employees make during the peak time of the day. Suppose the average is 20 calls. What is the probability that the employees make more than 20 long distance phone calls during the peak time?

These two examples illustrate two different types of probability problems involving discrete random variables. Recall that discrete data are data that you can count. A random variable describes the outcomes of a statistical experiment in words. The values of a random variable can vary with each repetition of an experiment.

In this chapter, you will study probability problems involving discrete random distributions. You will also study long-term averages associated with them.

## Random Variable Notation

Upper case letters like XX or YY denote a random variable. Lower case letters like xx or yy denote the value of a random variable. If XX is a random variable, then XX is written in words. and xx is given as a number.

For example, let XX = the number of heads you get when you toss three fair coins. The sample space for the toss of three fair coins is TTTTTT; THHTHH; HTHHTH; HHT HHT; HTTHTT; THTTHT; TTHTTH; HHH HHH. Then, xx = 0, 1, 2, 3. XX is in words and xx is a number. Notice that for this example, the xx values are countable outcomes. Because you can count the possible values that XX can take on and the outcomes are random (the xx values 0, 1, 2, 3), XX is a discrete random variable.

## Optional Collaborative Classroom Activity

Toss a coin 10 times and record the number of heads. After all members of the class have completed the experiment (tossed a coin 10 times and counted the number of heads), fill in the chart using a heading like the one below. Let XX = the number of heads in 10 tosses of the coin.

Table 1
xx Frequency of xx Relative Frequency of xx

• Which value(s) of xx occurred most frequently?
• If you tossed the coin 1,000 times, what values could xx take on? Which value(s) of xx do you think would occur most frequently?
• What does the relative frequency column sum to?

## Glossary

Random Variable (RV):
see Variable
Variable (Random Variable):
A characteristic of interest in a population being studied. Common notation for variables are upper case Latin letters XX size 12{X} {}, YY size 12{Y} {}, ZZ size 12{Z} {},...; common notation for a specific value from the domain (set of all possible values of a variable) are lower case Latin letters xx size 12{x} {}, yy size 12{y} {}, zz size 12{z} {},.... For example, if XX size 12{X} {} is the number of children in a family, then xx size 12{x} {} represents a specific integer 0, 1, 2, 3, .... Variables in statistics differ from variables in intermediate algebra in two following ways.
• The domain of the random variable (RV) is not necessarily a numerical set; the domain may be expressed in words; for example, if XX size 12{X} {} = hair color then the domain is {black, blond, gray, green, orange}.
• We can tell what specific value xx size 12{x} {} of the Random Variable XX size 12{X} {} takes only after performing the experiment.

## Content actions

PDF | EPUB (?)

### What is an EPUB file?

EPUB is an electronic book format that can be read on a variety of mobile devices.

#### Collection to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

#### Definition of a lens

##### Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

##### What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

##### Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

##### What are tags?

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks

#### Module to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

#### Definition of a lens

##### Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

##### What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

##### Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

##### What are tags?

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks