Party Preparations: How Many Ways Can Susan Assign Tasks to Her Helpful Friends?

When it comes to party preparations, assigning tasks to friends can be a tricky business. It’s not just about who can do what, but also about how many different ways tasks can be assigned. This is a question that Susan, who is planning a party, is grappling with. She has five friends – Vicki, Luis, Maddy, Hank, and Rob – who have volunteered to help. She needs someone to buy beverages, someone to arrange for food, and someone to send the invitations. But how many ways can she assign these tasks? Let’s delve into this interesting problem and find out.

Understanding the Problem

The problem at hand is essentially a permutation problem. In mathematics, a permutation of a set is, loosely speaking, an arrangement of its members into a sequence or linear order. In Susan’s case, she has five friends and three tasks, and she needs to figure out how many different ways she can assign these tasks.

Calculating the Permutations

In mathematics, the number of permutations of n distinct objects taken r at a time is given by the formula nPr = n! / (n-r)!. Here, n! denotes the factorial of n, which is the product of all positive integers less than or equal to n. In Susan’s case, n is 5 (the number of her friends) and r is 3 (the number of tasks), so the number of permutations is 5P3 = 5! / (5-3)! = 60.

Interpreting the Result

This means that there are 60 different ways Susan can assign the tasks of buying beverages, arranging for food, and sending the invitations to her five friends. This includes all possible combinations, such as Vicki buying beverages, Luis arranging for food, and Maddy sending the invitations, or Hank buying beverages, Rob arranging for food, and Vicki sending the invitations, and so on.


So, Susan has plenty of options when it comes to assigning tasks for her party preparations. This mathematical approach not only provides a precise answer to her question, but also illustrates the power of permutations in solving real-world problems. Whether you’re planning a party or tackling a complex project, understanding permutations can help you see all the possible ways you can assign tasks and make informed decisions.


What if Susan had more tasks or more friends?

The same formula would apply. If she had n friends and r tasks, the number of permutations would be nPr = n! / (n-r)!.

What if some tasks could be done by more than one person?

This would complicate the calculation, as it would no longer be a simple permutation problem. However, it could still be solved using more advanced combinatorial techniques.