Number of k-Cycles in Symmetric Group

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Let $n \in \N$ be a natural number.

Let $S_n$ denote the symmetric group on $n$ letters.

Let $k \in N$ such that $k \le n$.

The number of elements $m$ of $S_n$ which are $k$-cycles is given by:

$m = \paren {k - 1}! \dbinom n k = \dfrac {n!} {k \paren {n - k}!}$

Proof 1

Let $m$ be the number of elements of $S_n$ which are $k$-cycles.

From Cardinality of Set of Subsets, there are $\dfrac {n!} {k! \paren {n - k}!}$ different ways to select $k$ elements of $\set {1, 2, \ldots, n}$.

From Number of k-Cycles on Set of k Elements, each of these $\dfrac {n!} {k! \paren {n - k}!}$ sets with $k$ elements has $\paren {k - 1}!$ $k$-cycles.

It follows from Product Rule for Counting that:

\(\ds m\) \(=\) \(\ds \paren {k - 1}! \dfrac {n!} {k! \paren {n - k}!}\)
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds \paren {k - 1}! \dbinom n k\) Definition of Binomial Coefficient
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds \dfrac {n! \paren {k - 1}! } {k! \paren {n - k}!}\)
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds \dfrac {n!} {k \paren {n - k}!}\)


Proof 2

Suppose $n \ge k$, and consider the number of $k$-cycles in $S_n$.

A $k$-cycle can be represented by a selection of $k$ elements from $n$ without any repeats.

From Number of Permutations, the number of permutations of $k$ elements from $n$ possible elements is $\dfrac {n!} {\paren {n - k}!}$.

However, each such string is merely a representation of an $k$-cycle; the $k$-cycle itself does not depend on the starting elements in the string.

Since there are $k$ possible starting elements, we must divide this number by $k$.

Hence, the number of $m$-cycles is

$\dfrac {n!} {k \paren {n - k}!}$