5 Best Ways to Program to Count the Number of Ways We Can Throw n Dices in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: When working with probabilities and dice games, a common question arises: “In how many different ways can we roll n dices?” This article will explore various Python methods to calculate the number of possible outcomes when throwing n six-sided dices. For instance, given two dices, there are 36 possible ways to roll them, considering each die can land on a number from 1 to 6.

Method 1: Recursive Solution

The recursive method breaks down the problem into smaller sub-problems. It calculates the number of ways to roll n dices by considering the number of ways to roll n-1 dices and summing over all possible outcomes of the nth dice. This approach is simple in concept but can be inefficient for large n due to repeated calculations.

Here’s an example:

def count_ways(n, faces=6):
    if n == 0:
        return 1
    if n == 1:
        return faces
    return sum(count_ways(n-1, faces) for _ in range(faces))

print(count_ways(2))  # Output: 36

This function count_ways() recursively calculates the number of ways to roll n dices by considering the rolls of n-1 dices. The function has a base case for n = 0, returning 1 since there’s only one way to roll zero dice, and another for when n = 1, where it returns the number of faces. For n greater than 1, it recursively summates the result of count_ways(n-1, faces).

Method 2: Dynamic Programming

Dynamic Programming (DP) is a method for solving complex problems by breaking them down into simpler subproblems. It is applicable where the problem can be broken down into overlapping sub-problems. This DP approach stores the results of subproblems, thus eliminating the redundant calculation of the same subproblems, saving time at the expense of space.

Here’s an example:

def count_ways_dp(n, faces=6):
    dp = [0] * (n*faces + 1)
    for i in range(1, faces + 1):
        dp[i] = 1
    for i in range(2, n + 1):
        for j in range(i*faces, i-1, -1):
            dp[j] = sum(dp[max(0, j-faces):j])
    return sum(dp[n:])

print(count_ways_dp(2))  # Output: 36

This function count_ways_dp() uses a dynamic programming approach where it initializes a DP array to store the number of ways to achieve each possible sum. This approach eradicates the need for redundant calculations by building up the answer from smaller sub-problems and then aggregating the result to return the final count.

Method 3: Using Itertools

Python’s itertools module provides a method product(), which can be used to generate all possible outcomes of n dices. This method is very straightforward because it directly computes the cartesian product of the range of faces for the number of dices given. It is best for small numbers of dices.

Here’s an example:

import itertools

def count_ways_itertools(n, faces=6):
    return len(list(itertools.product(range(1, faces+1), repeat=n)))

print(count_ways_itertools(2))  # Output: 36

The function count_ways_itertools() uses the itertools.product() function with a specified repeat argument equal to n, which represents the number of dices. It then generates all possible combinations and counts them, returning the total number of ways to throw the dice.

Method 4: Mathematical Formula

This method employs a direct mathematical formula for calculating the number of permutations. For nd6, the number of ways to roll n dices is simply 6^n. This method is not only extremely efficient but also trivial to implement, as it boils down to a single exponentiation operation.

Here’s an example:

def count_ways_math(n, faces=6):
    return faces ** n

print(count_ways_math(2))  # Output: 36

The function count_ways_math() calculates the number of ways to roll n dices using a mathematical formula that raises the number of dice faces to the power of n. It’s an efficient and straightforward way to get the result without loops or recursion.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Functional Programming Style

Python supports functional programming paradigms and one can use built-in functions like reduce from the functools module to apply a function cumulatively to the items of a sequence. This one-liner approach is elegant and concise, suitable for code-golfing or situations where brevity is valued.

Here’s an example:

from functools import reduce

def count_ways_fp(n, faces=6):
    return reduce(lambda x, _: x * faces, range(n), 1)

print(count_ways_fp(2))  # Output: 36

This one-liner count_ways_fp() function uses reduce() to apply a lambda function that multiplies the accumulator x by the number of dice faces for each element in the range n, starting with an initial value of 1. The result is the total number of ways to roll n dices.


  • Method 1: Recursive Solution. Easy to understand and straightforward to implement. However, it has poor performance for large n due to repeated calculations.
  • Method 2: Dynamic Programming. Offers improved efficiency by storing intermediate results. It is faster for larger n but uses more memory.
  • Method 3: Using Itertools. Pythonic and concise, but not memory-efficient as it constructs all outcomes.
  • Method 4: Mathematical Formula. The most straightforward and efficient, albeit lacking the flexibility of other methods.
  • Bonus Method 5: Functional Programming Style. Elegant and concise, but readability may suffer for those not familiar with functional programming.