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Solving Permutation Problems: Counting Arrangements of "MISSISSIPPI" without Adjacent 'I's and 'S's

September 29, 2023
Josh Blackett
Josh Blackett
Josh Blackett has a master’s in pure mathematics and is also a seasoned assignment helper. He has helped over 600 students excel in their studies.

Math assignments often pose intriguing challenges that require a solid understanding of permutation and combination principles. In this theoretical discussion, we will delve into a captivating problem that university students often encounter: finding the number of ways to arrange the letters of the word "MISSISSIPPI" such that no two 'I's and no two 'S's are adjacent. Understanding the underlying principles of permutations and restrictions is essential in solving such complex problems. So, let's embark on this mathematical journey and equip you with the tools to solve your combinatorics assignment effectively.

The Basics of Permutations

Before we tackle the specific problem, let's review the fundamental concept of permutations. Permutations are arrangements of objects in a particular order. In our case, we are arranging the letters of the word "MISSISSIPPI." The total number of permutations of a set of objects without any restrictions can be calculated using the formula for permutations:

Navigating Permutations and Combinations From Theory to Real-World Applications

nP_r= n!/〖(n-1)〗^!'

where n is the total number of objects, r is the number of objects selected for arrangement, and ! denotes factorial.

In our problem, we have 11 letters in total, but to find the answer, we need to impose certain restrictions. We want to arrange them in a way that no two 'I's and no two 'S's are adjacent. Let's break down the problem step by step.

Step 1: Calculate the Total Permutations

First, let's calculate the total number of permutations of the letters in "MISSISSIPPI" without any restrictions. Here, n = 11, as there are 11 letters in the word. We want to arrange all of them, so r = 11.

n! = 11!

Step 2: Consider the Restrictions

Now, let's consider the restrictions: no two 'I's and no two 'S's can be adjacent. To do this, we will treat 'I's and 'S's as distinct entities.

To ensure that no two 'I's are adjacent, we can treat 'I' as a delimiter or a barrier between the other letters. This means we have 4 'I's to place in the 7 spaces between the other letters ('M', 'S', 'S', 'S', 'S', 'P', 'P').

To ensure that no two 'S's are adjacent, we can similarly treat 'S' as a delimiter. This gives us 5 'S's to place in the 7 spaces between the other letters ('M', 'I', 'I', 'I', 'I', 'P', 'P').

Now, we have two different types of objects ('I's and 'S's) along with the remaining letters ('M', 'P', 'P'). We need to calculate the permutations of these objects, considering the restrictions.

Step 3: Permutations of 'I's, 'S's, and Remaining Letters

Let's first calculate the permutations of the 'I's and the remaining letters ('M', 'P', 'P'). We have 4 'I's and 3 remaining letters, so:

4! X 3!

Next, we calculate the permutations of the 'S's and the remaining letters ('M', 'I', 'I', 'I', 'P', 'P'). We have 5 'S's and 6 remaining letters, so:

5! X 6!

Step 4: Multiply the Results

To find the total number of arrangements that satisfy the restrictions, we multiply the results from Step 3 together because these are independent events. The total number of arrangements is:

4! X 3! X 5! X 6!

Step 5: Calculate the Final Answer

Calculating the final answer will be as follows:

Total Arrangements= 11!/4!X3!X5!X6!

This is the theoretical solution to the problem, and it's ready to be used as a template to solve similar math assignments.

Permutations vs. Combinations

In our problem of arranging the letters in "MISSISSIPPI," we focused on permutations, which involve arranging objects in a specific order. However, permutations and combinations are distinct concepts in combinatorics.

Permutations consider the order of arrangement. For example, arranging 'A,' 'B,' and 'C' in different orders would yield different permutations: 'ABC,' 'BCA,' 'CAB,' and so on.

Combinations, on the other hand, disregard the order. For the same set of objects ('A,' 'B,' 'C'), combinations focus on selecting subsets, such as 'AB,' 'AC,' and 'BC,' without considering the order in which they are selected.

For some problems, you may need to use combinations instead of permutations. Understanding when to use each concept is crucial in solving various combinatorial problems.

Formula Recap

Let's quickly review the formulas for permutations and combinations:

Permutations (nPr): nP_r= n!/〖(n-1)〗^!

Combinations (nCr): nC_r= n!/〖(n-1)〗^!

These formulas are essential tools for solving a wide range of counting problems.

Real-World Applications

Combinatorics, including permutations and combinations, plays a significant role in various real-world applications. Here are a few examples:

1. Passwords and Security

In the realm of cybersecurity, combinations are widely used to understand the security of passwords and PINs. When setting a password, you choose a combination of characters, and the strength of your password depends on the number of possible combinations. Longer passwords with a variety of characters are more secure because they have a higher number of possible combinations, making them harder to guess or crack.

2. Lottery and Gambling

Lottery games often involve combinations. When you choose a set of numbers for a lottery ticket, you are essentially selecting a combination. The odds of winning depend on the total number of combinations possible and the specific combination you choose. Understanding combinatorics can help players make more informed decisions when playing such games.

3. Genetics and DNA Sequencing

In genetics and DNA sequencing, permutations are used to calculate the number of possible gene arrangements or sequences. The human genome, for example, contains a vast number of permutations of nucleotide bases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine). Comprehending these permutations is essential for researchers and scientists working in genetics.

Advanced Concepts in Permutations

Advanced concepts in permutations delve deeper into mathematical intricacies. Circular permutations, which involve arranging objects in a circle, add complexity to traditional linear arrangements. Multinomial coefficients extend permutations to scenarios with multiple categories of objects. These concepts enrich your understanding and expand your problem-solving toolkit in various mathematical applications.

Circular Permutations

So far, we've discussed linear permutations, where objects are arranged in a straight line. However, in some scenarios, you may encounter circular permutations, where objects are arranged in a circle.

Consider a round table with 'n' seats. How many ways can 'n' people sit around the table? In this case, the concept of circular permutations comes into play. The formula for circular permutations is similar to linear permutations, but with a slight modification:

nP_r= ((n-1)!)/(n-r)!

Circular permutations are often encountered in seating arrangements, clock problems, and arranging objects on a circular track.

Multinomial Coefficients

When you have a set of objects with repetitions, the concept of multinomial coefficients comes into play. It's an extension of combinations and permutations and is used when you want to count the arrangements of items with multiple categories or types.

For example, consider arranging the letters of "MISSISSIPPI" without any restrictions. In this case, you have four 'I's, four 'S's, and two 'P's. To calculate the total number of arrangements, you can use multinomial coefficients.

The formula for multinomial coefficients is:

n!/(n_1 !〖 . n〗_2 ! .n_3 ! .….n_k !)

Where 'n' is the total number of objects, and 'n1,' 'n2,' 'n3,' etc., represent the counts of each distinct type of object.

Probability and Permutations

Permutations are also closely related to probability. In probability theory, permutations are used to calculate the number of favorable outcomes when dealing with ordered events.

For instance, when calculating the probability of drawing a particular sequence of cards from a shuffled deck, you would use permutations. The number of favorable outcomes divided by the total number of possible outcomes gives you the probability of that specific sequence occurring.

Advanced Applications of Permutations and Combinations

Advanced applications of permutations and combinations extend far beyond the classroom. These mathematical concepts find practical use in fields like computer science, where they drive algorithms for optimization problems, and in probability theory for calculating outcomes in games of chance. Additionally, competitive programming enthusiasts harness permutations and combinations to sharpen their problem-solving skills in real-time contests. The versatility of these concepts highlights their relevance in solving complex, real-world challenges.

1. Pascal's Triangle

Pascal's Triangle is a fascinating mathematical structure that provides a wealth of information about combinations. Each number in the triangle is the result of adding the two numbers directly above it.

The numbers in Pascal's Triangle represent combinations (n choose r), where 'n' is the row number, and 'r' is the position within the row. For example, in the fourth row, the third number (3) represents 4 choose 2 (4C2), which is the number of ways to choose 2 items from a set of 4. Pascal's Triangle is a valuable tool for quickly calculating combinations and understanding their relationships.

2. Probability and Combinations

Combinations are closely tied to probability theory, particularly in scenarios involving independent events and sampling. When you're interested in calculating the probability of drawing specific items from a set without regard to their order, combinations are the appropriate tool.

For example, consider drawing two cards from a standard deck without replacement and wanting to find the probability of getting two aces. This involves calculating the number of favorable outcomes (choosing two aces from the four available) divided by the total number of possible outcomes (choosing any two cards from the 52-card deck). The formula for this probability would be:

P(Two aces)= 4C2/52C2

Probability and combinations are also integral to fields like statistics, where sampling techniques rely on the principles of combinatorics to draw meaningful conclusions from data.

3. Combinatorial Optimization

Combinatorial optimization is a branch of mathematics that deals with finding the best solution from a finite set of possibilities. It has extensive applications in computer science, engineering, logistics, and operations research. Some well-known combinatorial optimization problems include the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP) and the Knapsack Problem.

The TSP, for instance, involves finding the shortest route that visits a set of cities exactly once and returns to the starting city. Permutations play a significant role in solving TSP, as they represent different orders in which cities can be visited. Researchers and practitioners use algorithms to efficiently compute optimal solutions for large-scale instances of such problems.

Permutations, Combinations, and Competitive Programming

Competitive programming is a popular sport among computer science and mathematics enthusiasts. It involves solving algorithmic and mathematical problems under time constraints. Many competitive programming problems are based on permutations and combinations, testing contestants' ability to devise efficient solutions.

Solving competitive programming problems can be both intellectually stimulating and rewarding. Contestants often develop strong problem-solving skills, which are highly valued in the tech industry and academia.

Practical Tips for Solving Permutation and Combination Problems

When tackling math assignments or real-world problems that involve permutations and combinations, consider the following practical tips:

Understand the Problem: Carefully read and interpret the problem statement, identifying any constraints or special conditions.

Choose the Appropriate Concept: Determine whether the problem requires permutations, combinations, or both. This distinction is crucial for selecting the correct formula.

Plan Your Approach: Before diving into calculations, outline a clear plan or strategy for solving the problem. This can help you avoid errors and wasted effort.

Use Formulas Sparingly: While formulas are valuable, avoid relying on them blindly. Understand the underlying principles, and use formulas as tools to expedite calculations.

Practice Problem-Solving: The more you practice, the more proficient you become. Seek out additional problems and challenges to sharpen your combinatorial skills.


In this comprehensive discussion, we have explored the world of permutations and combinations, from fundamental principles and formulas to advanced applications and their significance in various fields. Mathematics, especially combinatorics, offers a rich tapestry of concepts that empower students to solve complex problems, whether in academic assignments, real-world scenarios, or competitive programming. As you continue your mathematical journey, remember that a solid understanding of permutations and combinations is not just about solving equations; it's about developing analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a deep appreciation for the elegance of mathematics. So, embrace the challenge, practice diligently, and equip yourself to confidently tackle any permutation or combination problem that comes your way. Whether you're striving to solve your math assignments or exploring the intriguing world of combinatorics, the knowledge you've gained here will serve you well.

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