2019 AMC 10B Problems/Problem 21


Debra flips a fair coin repeatedly, keeping track of how many heads and how many tails she has seen in total, until she gets either two heads in a row or two tails in a row, at which point she stops flipping. What is the probability that she gets two heads in a row but she sees a second tail before she sees a second head?

$\textbf{(A) } \frac{1}{36} \qquad \textbf{(B) } \frac{1}{24} \qquad \textbf{(C) } \frac{1}{18} \qquad \textbf{(D) } \frac{1}{12} \qquad \textbf{(E) } \frac{1}{6}$

Solution 1

We first want to find out which sequences of coin flips satisfy the given condition. For Debra to see the second tail before the second head, her first flip can't be heads, as that would mean she would either end with double tails before seeing the second head, or would see two heads before she sees two tails. Therefore, her first flip must be tails. The shortest sequence of flips by which she can get two heads in a row and see the second tail before she sees the second head is $THTHH$, which has a probability of $\frac{1}{2^5} = \frac{1}{32}$. Furthermore, she can prolong her coin flipping by adding an extra $TH$, which itself has a probability of $\frac{1}{2^2} = \frac{1}{4}$. Since she can do this indefinitely, this gives an infinite geometric series with a first term of $\frac{1}{32}$ and a common ratio of $\frac{1}{4}$, which means the answer (by the infinite geometric series sum formula) is $\frac{\frac{1}{32}}{1-\frac{1}{4}} = \boxed{\textbf{(B) }\frac{1}{24}}$.

Solution 2 (Easier)

Note that the sequence must start in THT, which happens with $\frac{1}{8}$ probability. Now, let $P$ be the probability that Debra will get two heads in a row after flipping THT. Either Debra flips two heads in a row immediately (probability $\frac{1}{4}$), or flips a head and then a tail and reverts back to the "original position" (probability $\frac{1}{4}P$). Therefore, $P=\frac{1}{4}+\frac{1}{4}P$, so $P=\frac{1}{3}$, so our final answer is $\frac{1}{8}\times\frac{1}{3}=\boxed{\textbf{(B) }\frac{1}{24}}$. -Stormersyle

Video Solutions



See Also

2019 AMC 10B (ProblemsAnswer KeyResources)
Preceded by
Problem 20
Followed by
Problem 22
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
All AMC 10 Problems and Solutions

The problems on this page are copyrighted by the Mathematical Association of America's American Mathematics Competitions. AMC logo.png