Pascal's Identity is a useful theorem of combinatorics dealing with combinations (also known as binomial coefficients). It can often be used to simplify complicated expressions involving binomial coefficients.
Pascal's Identity is also known as Pascal's Rule, Pascal's Formula, and occasionally Pascal's Theorem.
Pascal's Identity states that
for any positive integers and . Here, is the binomial coefficient .
This result can be interpreted combinatorially as follows: the number of ways to choose things from things is equal to the number of ways to choose things from things added to the number of ways to choose things from things.
If then and so the result is trivial. So assume . Then
Here, we prove this using committee forming.
Consider picking one fixed object out of objects. Then, we can choose objects including that one in ways.
Because our final group of objects either contains the specified one or doesn't, we can choose the group in ways.
But we already know they can be picked in ways, so
Also, we can look at Pascal's Triangle to see why this is. If we were to extend Pascal's Triangle to row n, we would see the term . Above that, we would see the terms and . Due to the definition of Pascal's Triangle, .
Pascal's identity was probably first derived by Blaise Pascal, a 17th century French mathematician, whom the theorem is named after.
Pascal also did extensive other work on combinatorics, including work on Pascal's triangle, which bears his name. He discovered many patterns in this triangle, and it can be used to prove this identity. The method of proof using that is called block walking.