1986 AIME Problems/Problem 13


In a sequence of coin tosses, one can keep a record of instances in which a tail is immediately followed by a head, a head is immediately followed by a head, and etc. We denote these by TH, HH, and etc. For example, in the sequence TTTHHTHTTTHHTTH of 15 coin tosses we observe that there are two HH, three HT, four TH, and five TT subsequences. How many different sequences of 15 coin tosses will contain exactly two HH, three HT, four TH, and five TT subsequences?


Let's consider each of the sequences of two coin tosses as an operation instead; this operation takes a string and adds the next coin toss on (eg, THHTH + HT = THHTHT). We examine what happens to the last coin toss. Adding HH or TT is simply an identity for the last coin toss, so we will ignore them for now. However, adding HT or TH switches the last coin. H switches to T three times, but T switches to H four times; hence it follows that our string will have a structure of THTHTHTH.

Now we have to count all of the different ways we can add the identities back in. There are 5 TT subsequences, which means that we have to add 5 T into the strings, as long as the new Ts are adjacent to existing Ts. There are already 4 Ts in the sequence, and since order doesn’t matter between different tail flips this just becomes the ball-and-urn argument. We want to add 5 balls into 4 urns, which is the same as 3 dividers; hence this gives ${{5+3}\choose3} = 56$ combinations. We do the same with 2 Hs to get ${{2+3}\choose3} = 10$ combinations; thus there are $56 \cdot 10 = \boxed {560}$ possible sequences.

Slight Variation

The structure of the final order is T_H_T_H_T_H_T_H_, and there are 4 spots to put the 2 heads in, and 4 spots to put the 5 tails in. By using the formula for distributing r identical objects into n distinct boxes $\dbinom{r+n-1}{r}$ and multiplication, the answer is ${{2+4-1}\choose2} \cdot{{5+4-1}\choose5}=560$ ~Slight edits in LaTeX by EthanSpoon

See also

1986 AIME (ProblemsAnswer KeyResources)
Preceded by
Problem 12
Followed by
Problem 14
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
All AIME Problems and Solutions

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