This is based on the question at here

I want to know how many onto functions are there from set $A={1,2,3,4,5}$ to set $B={a,b,c}$.

This is how I did it: First i tried to find the functions which are not onto
case 1: All in A maps to a single element of B
There are 3 ways for this

When mappings are made for only two elements in range.
First we have to select 2 out of 3 elements.That can be done in $3\choose 2$$=3$ways.
Consider mappings to only (a,b).
Number of ways when only one item maps to a=5
Number of ways when only two items maps to a=$5\choose 2$
Number of ways when only three items maps to a=$5\choose 3$

Number of ways when only four items maps to a=$5\choose 4$
Total mappings only to (a,b)=30.
Hence in case 2 total non onto mappings are$=30*3=90$

By case1 and case2 Total non onto mappings are $90+3=93$

Therefore onto mappings are $3^5=93=150$

My question is in the given answer mappings for case2 is obtained as , there are 2^5 = 32 possible functions, so we have 3*32 = 96 functions here that aren't onto.

What's wrong with my method?
Can someone please tell me where I have done wrong?

  • $\begingroup$ possible duplicate of Calculating the total number of surjective functions $\endgroup$ – hardmath Dec 30 '14 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @hardmath No, this is a question about why a particular method miscounts. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Dec 30 '14 at 17:29
  • $\begingroup$ As both answers show, your answer is correct (and the reference has an error). $\endgroup$ – user84413 Dec 30 '14 at 22:06

$2^5$ also counts the maps with only one element in the image. When you then multiply by $3$ you double count the functions that send only to one element.

For example the function $f_a$ (that sends everything to $a$). Is counted in the case $(a,b)$ and $(a,c)$. Since there are $3$ such functions we have to subtract $3$ to the outcome and we get $96-3=93$ which you had before.


I'll consider $\{1,2,3\}$ instead of $\{a,b,c\}$ (it's easier for the notation)

For $i\in\{1,2,3\}$, let $A_i$ denote the set of all function $f:\{1,...,5\}\to\{1,2,3\}\backslash \{i\}$. A function $f:\{1,...,5\}\to\{1,2,3\}$ is onto if it doesn't belong to $\bigcup_{i=1}^3 A_i$. By inclusion exclusion formula, $$\left|\bigcup_{i=1}^3 A_i\right|=\sum_{\emptyset\neq I\subset \{1,2,3\}}(-1)^{|I|-1}\left|\bigcap_{i\in I}A_i\right|$$ For any non-emptyset, $I\subset \{1,2,3\}$, $$\left|\bigcap_{i\in I}A_i\right|=(3-|I|)^5,$$ because $\bigcap_{i\in I}A_i$ is the set of all function $f:\{1,...,5\}\to\{1,2,3\}\backslash I$. Therefore, $$\left|\bigcup_{i=1}^3 A_i\right|=\sum_{\emptyset\neq I\subset \{1,2,3\}}(-1)^{|I|-1}(3-|I|)^5=\sum_{i=1}^3(-1)^{i-1}\binom{3}{i}(3-i)^5.$$

We conclude that the number of onto function is $$3^5-\left|\bigcup_{i=1}^3 A_i\right|=\sum_{i=0}^3(-1)^i\binom{3}{i}(3-i)^5=...$$


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