# Discrete Random Variable

## What is a Discrete Random Variable?

A discrete random variable is a type of random variable that can take on a countable number of distinct values. This is in contrast to continuous random variables, which can take on any value within a continuous range. Discrete random variables are often used in statistical analysis and probability theory to model and study systems that can only be in distinct states, such as the number of heads in a series of coin tosses, the number of cars passing through a checkpoint, or the number of students scoring a particular grade in an exam.

## Characteristics of Discrete Random Variables

Discrete random variables have the following key characteristics:

• Countability: Their possible values can be listed out in a sequence. For example, the number of customers arriving at a store can be 0, 1, 2, 3, and so on.
• Summability:

The probabilities of all possible values of a discrete random variable add up to 1. This is based on the fundamental axiom of probability that the sum of probabilities of all possible outcomes of a random experiment is 1.

• Probability Mass Function (PMF): Each value of a discrete random variable has an associated probability, given by its probability mass function. The PMF specifies the probability that the random variable takes on each of its possible values.

## Probability Mass Function

The probability mass function (PMF) of a discrete random variable is a function that gives the probability that a discrete random variable is exactly equal to some value. The PMF is often denoted by P(X = x), where X is the discrete random variable and x is one of its possible values. The PMF satisfies the following conditions:

• 0 ≤ P(X = x) ≤ 1 for all values of x.
• The sum of P(X = x) over all possible values of x is 1.

## Examples of Discrete Random Variables

Here are a few examples of discrete random variables:

• The number of heads obtained when flipping a coin three times (possible values: 0, 1, 2, 3).
• The number of students absent in a class on a given day.
• The number of goals scored by a team in a soccer match.
• The number of defective items in a batch of produced goods.

## Discrete vs. Continuous Random Variables

It's important to distinguish between discrete and continuous random variables:

• Discrete Random Variables: Can only take on specific values (e.g., 0, 1, 2, ...). They are characterized by a probability mass function.
• Continuous Random Variables:

Can take on any value within a range or interval and are characterized by a probability density function (PDF). For example, the exact time a student arrives at school could be any value from 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM and is modeled by a continuous random variable.

## Expectation and Variance of Discrete Random Variables

The expectation (or expected value) of a discrete random variable is a measure of the central tendency of its distribution, given by the sum of the products of each possible value of the random variable and its corresponding probability. Mathematically, for a discrete random variable X with PMF P(X = x), the expectation E(X) is given by:

E(X) = Σ [x * P(X = x)]

where the sum is taken over all possible values of X.

The variance of a discrete random variable measures the spread of its distribution. It is the expected value of the squared deviation of the random variable from its mean. For a discrete random variable X with expectation E(X), the variance Var(X) is given by:

Var(X) = E[(X - E(X))^2] = Σ [(x - E(X))^2 * P(X = x)]

where the sum is taken over all possible values of X.

## Applications of Discrete Random Variables

Discrete random variables are used in various fields for different purposes, including:

• Statistics: To analyze and interpret data from surveys, experiments, and observational studies.
• Finance: To model the number of defaults on loans or the number of claims in insurance.
• Computer Science: To model discrete events such as the number of requests to a server or the number of packets sent over a network.
• Operations Research: To model the number of customers in a queue or the number of products sold in inventory management.

Understanding discrete random variables is fundamental to the study of probability and statistics, and their applications are widespread in the real world, where they help in making informed decisions under uncertainty.

Please sign up or login with your details

Forgot password? Click here to reset