Name Scramble

If you scramble the letters in the name TESSA you can make the word SEATS or the word ASSET. Scrambled words are called anagrams, and there are a lot of fun anagrams in English, like SILENT into LISTEN, or PERCUSSION into SUPERSONIC.

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How many ways can you scramble the letters in your name? Let’s work out the answer for a short name, and build up to longer names. My last name is KIM, and there are six different ways to scramble the letters:

K I M   I K M   M K I
K M I   I M K   M I K  

Why six ways? Look at my list and you’ll see that there are three choices for the first letter — K, I or M — which leaves two possible orders for the other two letters. Three times two is six. And if your name is TOM or AMY, you also have six possible orders.

What about for a four-letter word like STOP. Six of the ways make words — STOP, TOPS, POTS, POST, SPOT and OPTS, but if you count all the ways there are to put the four letters in a row, you will find that there are 24 different orders, which mathematicians call permutations.

Permutations are not usually taught in math class until college, but anyone who can add and multiply can learn the basics. Besides, rearranging words is fun!

Go deeper. Here is a catchy song that helps you remember the formula for counting permutations and combinations. It’s got some good examples, but it does not explain why the formula works.

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And here’s a short article that explains why the formulas for permutations and combinations work.

Discover the anagrams in your name. Did you know that the letters of CORONAVIRUS rearrange to spell CARNIVOROUS? Or that CLINT EASTWOOD rearranges into OLD WEST ACTION? Discover the anagrams hidden in your name by going to the Internet Anagram Server.

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