Thinking Math@TheCulture #3

Thinking@TheCulture is a series of questions that we, as tutors feel that are useful in helping students think and improve their understanding.

Thinking Math@TheCulture is curated by KS. More of him can be found here.

This is a question from 1976 A’levels Paper 2. I thought it is pretty interesting to discuss the question with a little extension.

(a) In how many ways can 5 copies of a book be distributed among 10 people, if no-one gets more than one copy?

(b) In how many ways can 5 different books be distributed among 10 people if each person can get any number of books?

So now, let us modify it a bit.

(c) In how many ways can 5 copies of a book be distributed among 10 people if each person can get any number of books?

Notice that the difference between (b) and (c) is that the book distributed is not identical. So for (c), we are pretty much distributing identical balls to  distinct boxes. Whereas for (b) , we are pretty much distributing distinct balls to  distinct boxes.

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