# Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery

By Arturo Sangalli | Go to book overview

Appendix 1
Jule’s Solution

Below, we give some hints for the solution of the probability question posted on canyousolveit.com (p. 6). The concepts, formulas, and notation used should be familiar to an undergraduate student in mathematics.

We consider the general case of n players. A distribution of n hats among these n players is represented mathematically as a permutation s on a set {1, 2,…, n} of n elements, where s(i) = j means that player i picks hat j. The number of these permutations is n!

Those permutations s for which s(i)i for i = 1,2,…, n, are called derangements, and they correspond to distributions of hats for which none of the players picks his own hat.

Then, the probability that none of the n players will pick his own hat is d/n! where d is the number of derangements.

To find the value of d, let P denote the set of all permutations and D the set of derangements (on n elements).

P can be expressed as the union of D and subsets Fi, i = 1, 2,…, n, of P where Fi is the set of permutations s that leave i fixed, that is, such that s(i) = i. In symbols,

From the equation above it follows that n! = d + f, where f is the number of permutations in the union of the Fi.

-171-

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