What is Pascal in Maths?

Education concept. Student studying and brainstorming campus con

In the realm of mathematics, Pascal’s Triangle stands as a remarkable and elegant creation. Named after the French mathematician Blaise Pascal, this triangular array of numbers exhibits mesmerizing patterns and profound mathematical properties. Since its discovery in ancient times, Pascal’s Triangle has found applications in various fields of mathematics and beyond.

The Genesis of Pascal's Triangle

Pascal’s Triangle has a rich history that can be traced back over two millennia. While it was known to ancient Chinese mathematicians, its first formal presentation is attributed to the Persian mathematician Al-Karaji in the 10th century. However, the triangle is most famously associated with Blaise Pascal, who introduced it to European audiences in the 17th century.

Construction and Basic Properties

The easiest way to construct the triangle is to start at row zero and write only the number one. To get the numbers in the rows below, you need to add the ones above and to the left of the current row with the ones above and to the right of that row. Put a 0 in lieu of the missing number and continue adding if the left or right side is empty.

Pascal’s Triangle is a part of the A-Level Maths syllabus and is constructed in a simple and elegant manner. Each row of the triangle begins and ends with a “1,” and every other element in between is the sum of the two elements directly above it. For example, the third row of the triangle is “1, 2, 1,” where 2 is obtained by adding the two “1” s from the previous row.

The triangle’s arrangement leads to a plethora of fascinating properties. The sum of the elements in each row forms the powers of 2, and the elements in the nth row represent the coefficients of the binomial expansion (a+b)^n. These properties make Pascal’s Triangle a valuable tool for binomial theorem applications and probability calculations.


1    1

1    2    1

1    3    3    1

1    4    6    4    1

1    5    10    10    5    1

1    6    15    20    15    6    1

A teacher smiling at camera in classroom

Patterns and Symmetry

Pascal’s Triangle is a treasure trove of patterns and symmetry. The most prominent pattern is the triangular shape itself, which emerges from its construction rules. Additionally, the triangle exhibits reflective symmetry along its central vertical axis.

Moreover, fascinating patterns arise from the diagonals of the triangle. The nth diagonal corresponds to the binomial coefficients for the (n-1)th power of the binomial (a+b). Each diagonal is associated with a specific mathematical concept, such as triangular numbers, tetrahedral numbers, and Fibonacci numbers, enriching the triangle’s mathematical significance.

Pascal’s Triangle and Combinatorics

Combinatorics, a branch of mathematics dealing with counting and arrangement problems, finds a natural home in Pascal’s Triangle. The binomial coefficients in the triangle provide solutions to numerous combinatorial problems, such as choosing subsets from a set, arranging objects, and calculating probabilities.

Pascal’s Triangle is an invaluable tool for solving problems related to permutations, combinations, and the multinomial theorem. It simplifies complex counting problems and empowers mathematicians to analyze diverse scenarios with ease.

Addition of the Rows

One of the interesting properties of the triangle is that the sum of numbers in a row is equal to 2n

where n corresponds to the number of the row:

1 = 1 = 20

1 + 1 = 2 = 21

1 + 2 + 1 = 4 = 22

1 + 3 + 3 + 1 = 8 = 23

1 + 4 + 6 + 4 + 1 = 16 = 24

Prime Numbers in the Triangle

Another pattern visible in the triangle deals with prime numbers. If a row starts with a prime number or is a prime numbered row, all the numbers that are in that row (not counting the 1’s) are divisible by that prime. Row 5 (1 5 10 51) demonstrates that both 5 and 10 can be written as divisible by 5. Row 8 (1 8 28 56 70 56 28 8 1) is an example of a composite row where neither 28 nor 70 is divisible by 8.

Applications in Number Theory

Pascal’s Triangle finds surprising connections to number theory, revealing intriguing properties of prime numbers and perfect numbers. For instance, examining the triangle’s elements, modulo 2 exposes a pattern related to the distribution of even and odd numbers.

Furthermore, Pascal’s Triangle reveals the connection between triangular numbers and the sum of consecutive natural numbers. The triangle also provides insights into triangular and hexagonal numbers, offering a deeper understanding of number theory concepts.

Applications in Probability Theory

In probability theory, Pascal’s Triangle plays a fundamental role in calculating probabilities of various events. It provides a systematic approach to finding the probabilities of coin tosses, dice rolls, and other random processes.

The triangle also has applications in the study of probability distributions, such as the binomial distribution and the Pascal distribution. These distributions model real-world scenarios involving random variables, making Pascal’s Triangle a valuable tool for probability calculations.

Connection to the Sierpinski Triangle

The Sierpinski Triangle, a captivating fractal pattern, exhibits an unexpected connection to Pascal’s Triangle. By shading odd and even numbers in the triangle, a self-replicating pattern emerges that bears a striking resemblance to the Sierpinski Triangle.

This intriguing relationship highlights the intersection of different mathematical concepts and showcases the beauty of mathematical patterns.

Applications in Calculus and Analysis

Pascal’s Triangle even finds applications in calculus and mathematical analysis. The triangle provides insights into the properties of binomial series, which are essential in Taylor series expansions and calculus approximations.

The relationship between Pascal’s Triangle and the Fibonacci sequence leads to remarkable discoveries in mathematical analysis. This connection bridges the gap between discrete mathematics and continuous mathematics, revealing profound relationships between seemingly unrelated concepts.

Final Thoughts

As mathematics continues to evolve, the significance of Pascal’s Triangle will endure, inspiring future generations of mathematicians to explore its mysteries and unlock new mathematical insights. Its ever-expanding influence on various branches of mathematics and its surprising connections to other mathematical concepts reaffirms its place as a timeless and cherished contribution to the mathematical world.

Whatever  your goals if you need help getting those top grades then just complete the form and we will be in contact within 24 hours. 

If you, or your parents would like to find out more, please just get in touch via email at info@exam.tips or call us on 0800 689 1272