Monday, April 23, 2012

JCCDQBHWHCB037(ii) Combinatorics : Grouping and Insertion Method


     This question is from a source that does not credit the original source.  In the original question was poorly worded.  It did not have the words “the letters of the word”.  Instead of “each vowel must be separated”, it said “a vowel must be separated”, which is might mean there is just one such instance.  This is ambiguous.  I have taken the liberty to rephrase some parts of the question to make its meaning clearer.  In this article, I shall discuss only part (ii) of this question.

Stage 1:  Understanding the question

What is the given in the problem?  Can you organise the information?
     Though not absolutely necessary, it is helpful to draw a diagram that separate the letters into vowels and consonants and write the stack up the same letters in columns.

     There are  5  vowels (of which  O is repeated)  and  6  consonants (of which  N  and  S  are repeated).

Can you explain the problem in your own words?
     The letters of the word ‘CONNOISSEUR’ are re-arranged, which means that all the 11 letters are used.  Each vowel must be separated from another with exactly one consonant, which means that the letters must contain the pattern  “v c v c v c v c v” (where v = vowel, c = consonant).  Important: Note that the question does not say that the first letter must be a consonant.

Stage 2:  Planning

Have you seen a similar problem before?
     Yes, but this looks a bit more challenging.  There are more possibilities as first letter need not be a consonant.

What heuristics can you try?
     ·  Solve part of the problem
     ·  Split the problem into smaller problems

What topic-specific tactics can you try?
     The “v c v c v c v c v” pattern can be treated as a group (Grouping Method).  Since there are six consonants, there are two more “c”s (consonants) in the full pattern.  This looks like a problem that can use the Insertion Method.

Stage 3:  Execution

The number of ways to insert the group = 3C1 = 3
     [these are the patterns “ccvcvcvcvcv”, “cvcvcvcvcvc” and “vcvcvcvcvcc”  ]

For each pattern,
     the vowels can be arranged in  5! / 2!  ways (division because there are 2 ‘O’)
     the consonants can be arranged in  6! / 2! 2!  ways (division because of 2 ‘N’ and 2 ‘S’)

Hence the total number of ways is

Stage 4:  Evaluation

Is the answer correct?
     Yes, the answer is correct.

Stage 5:  Reflection

What have we learned by solving this problem?
     We have learned once again that heuristics and metacognition are useful in solving mathematical problems.  Specifically, we have used the following heuristics:-
          ·  Drawing a diagram
          ·  Solve part of the problem
          ·  Split the problem into smaller problems

     We have also used the following techniques that are useful for combinatorical problems:-
          ·  Grouping Method
          ·  Insertion Method
          ·  Division Method (for dealing with repeated letters)

     It is also important to understand the problem correctly and not make unfounded assumptions.  If the wording is not clear, you may want to rephrase it.

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