# How Did 1886 Dutch Students Solve This Complex Math Problem?

• BvU
In summary: What is partial integration? You mean like this? $$\int \mathrm{f}(x,y,z) \partial{}x$$or this$$\int u\, dv=u\, v-\int v\, du$$maybe your friend should work on his communication skills. The student probably did not know what he was on about. What is forth semester physics these days? Is that still incline planes or maybe finite square wells?From what I understand, partial integration is the process of integrating a function over a region of a two-dimensional space. Integration by parts is the process of integrating a function over a part of a two-dimensional space
BvU
Homework Helper
Homework Statement
Solve ##x## from $$\left ( a+x\right )^{2\over 3} + 6\left ( a-x\right )^{2\over 3} =5\left ( a^2- x^2 \right )^{1\over 3}$$
Relevant Equations
actually, my algebra appears insufficient :frown:
Book answer is ##\qquad a≥0\qquad x={ 7\over 9}\;a\ \ \lor\ \ x={ 13\over 14}\;a\ \ ##but I fail to see how to get there !

Stunned by an 1886 dutch high school exam exercise. Hats off for the 17 year olds that did it !

##\ ##

Divide by the right hand side.

chwala, WWGD, SammyS and 2 others
Frabjous said:
Divide by the right hand side.
I don't get it. The right side does not divide at all nicely into the left side. Did you overlook the exponents inside the parens or am I missing something?

WWGD
BvU said:
Homework Statement: Solve ##x## from $$\left ( a+x\right )^{2\over 3} + 6\left ( a-x\right )^{2\over 3} =5\left ( a^2- x^2 \right )^{1\over 3}$$
Relevant Equations: actually, my algebra appears insufficient

Book answer is ##\qquad a≥0\qquad x={ 7\over 9}\;a\ \ \lor\ \ x={ 13\over 14}\;a\ \ ##but I fail to see how to get there !

Stunned by an 1886 dutch high school exam exercise. Hats off for the 17 year olds that did it !

##\ ##
I think this should work:

Let ##p = (a+x)^{\frac 13}## and ##q = (a-x)^{\frac 13}##.

The given equation can then be written as ##p^2 + 6q^2 =5pq##.

##p^2 - 5pq + 6q^2 =0##

##(p - 2q)(p - 3q) = 0##

And take it from there.

Edit: Spoiler removed.

Last edited:
Math100, chwala, tech99 and 8 others
Frabjous said:
Divide by the right hand side.
I should have seen it ... but didn't : the quadratic equation is mischieviously wrapped up in that kind of exam question.

@phinds : divide by ##(a-x)^{1\over 3} \ (a+x)^{1\over 3}## to get ## y+{6\over y} =5 ##

##\ ##

chwala, Frabjous and phinds
As soon as I appreciated that $$(a+x)(a-x)=(a^2-x^2)$$ I was home free on this one

chwala and PhDeezNutz
Worse comes to worse, time is running out on the exam, cube both sides. Only one term will remain to a non-unity power p/q. Leave it alone in one side and raise both sides to the qth power. Hardly elegant, but at least you'll get some credit.
Edit: In this exercise, you first cube both sides, end up with a mixed term; then isolate it on one side, then cube both sides again.

chwala
WWGD said:
Worse comes to worse, time is running out ...
It's an exam from 1886

nuuskur, hutchphd and WWGD
BvU said:
It's an exam from 1886
It's likely too late for you to get any credit for it now.

chwala, PhDeezNutz, berkeman and 3 others
BvU said:
It's an exam from 1886
But it was an _open_ exam. ;).

Last edited:
hutchphd
WWGD said:
Worse comes to worse, time is running out

WWGD
BvU said:
Homework Statement: Solve ##x## from $$\left ( a+x\right )^{2\over 3} + 6\left ( a-x\right )^{2\over 3} =5\left ( a^2- x^2 \right )^{1\over 3}$$
Relevant Equations: actually, my algebra appears insufficient

Book answer is ##\qquad a≥0\qquad x={ 7\over 9}\;a\ \ \lor\ \ x={ 13\over 14}\;a\ \ ##but I fail to see how to get there !

Stunned by an 1886 dutch high school exam exercise. Hats off for the 17 year olds that did it !

##\ ##
There you see how much the level of high-school math has declined nowadays! SCNR.

malawi_glenn, dextercioby and MatinSAR
I don't know, whether it's about IQ. It's rather about quality of high-school education. A colleague just told me in his last problem session a 4th semester (sic!) physics student was utmost lost at the task to do an integral by partial integration.

malawi_glenn
vanhees71 said:
I don't know, whether it's about IQ. It's rather about quality of high-school education. A colleague just told me in his last problem session a 4th semester (sic!) physics student was utmost lost at the task to do an integral by partial integration.
What is partial integration? You mean like this? $$\int \mathrm{f}(x,y,z) \partial{}x$$
or this
$$\int u\, dv=u\, v-\int v\, du$$
maybe your friend should work on his communication skills. The student probably did not know what he was on about. What is forth semester physics these days? Is that still incline planes or maybe finite square wells?

The first expression is nonsensical. Of course I mean the second.

vanhees71 said:
The first expression is nonsensical. Of course I mean the second.
It may be worth noting that the term ‘partial integration’ has two (that I know of) different meanings:

1) It is an alternative (though not widely used) name for ‘integration by parts’.

2) It is a term (informally?) used in multivariate calculus for integration with respect to a single variable. For example in https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/differential-equations/review-and-introduction/partial-integration the author writes ##f(x,y) = \int M(x,y)∂x## (which is consistent with @lurflurf's 1st example in Post #15). Though I don't know if this notational use of ##∂x## is widely accepted.

lurflurf
lurflurf said:
What is partial integration? You mean like this? $$\int \mathrm{f}(x,y,z) \partial{}x$$
or this
$$\int u\, dv=u\, v-\int v\, du$$
maybe your friend should work on his communication skills. The student probably did not know what he was on about. What is forth semester physics these days? Is that still incline planes or maybe finite square wells?
I thought partial integration and integration by parts mean two different things...correct me if i am wrong...i think partial implies to for e.g decomposing

##\dfrac{ax+c}{ax^2+bx+c}## into ##\dfrac{A}{(ax+b)} +\dfrac{B}{(cx+d)} ## where ##x## is a given variable and the rest are constants.

...then applying integration accordingly.

BvU said:
Homework Statement: Solve ##x## from $$\left ( a+x\right )^{2\over 3} + 6\left ( a-x\right )^{2\over 3} =5\left ( a^2- x^2 \right )^{1\over 3}$$
Relevant Equations: actually, my algebra appears insufficient

Book answer is ##\qquad a≥0\qquad x={ 7\over 9}\;a\ \ \lor\ \ x={ 13\over 14}\;a\ \ ##but I fail to see how to get there !

Stunned by an 1886 dutch high school exam exercise. Hats off for the 17 year olds that did it !

##\ ##
It would be interesting if i can get a different approach to this problem...i will check it out. I guess Binomial Theorem could apply though tedious.

Ok i am thinking along the lines of:

##\dfrac{(a+x)^\frac{2}{3}}{(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}}= 5(a-x)^\frac{1}{3} - 6(a-x)^\frac{2}{3}####(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}=5(a-x)^\frac{1}{3} - 6(a-x)^\frac{2}{3}####\dfrac {(a-x)^\frac{1}{3}[5-6(a-x)^\frac{1}{3}] }{(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}}=1##

Let

##a-x=k##
##a+x=m##

Then using the above... we shall get:

##6k^\frac{2}{3}-5k^\frac{1}{3}+1=0##

and

##m^\frac{1}{3}=1##

Let

##n=k^\frac{1}{3}##

then we shall have:

##6n^2-5n+1=0##

##n_1=0.5 ⇒k_1=0.125##

##n_2=0.333⇒k_2=0.037##

We know that

##m=1##

using, ##k=0.125## we shall have,

##a-x=0.125##
##a+x=1##

solving the simultaneous equation yields,

##-2x=-0.875##

##x=0.4375##

##⇒a=0.5625##

Last edited:
I hope I am not too late, but I have found the answers you put for ##x## but not sure why ##a## should be greater or less than zero, as you say in your first post (#1 up).

Can anyone tell me please why should ##a\ge 0##? And if am mistaken in my work up there ?

What do you get if ##a = -1 ## ?
check

And high school curriculum didn't include complex numbers

##\ ##

chwala said:
It would be interesting if i can get a different approach to this problem...i will check it out. I guess Binomial Theorem could apply though tedious.

Ok i am thinking along the lines of:

##\dfrac{(a+x)^\frac{2}{3}}{(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}}= 5(a-x)^\frac{1}{3} - 6(a-x)^\frac{2}{3}##
It looks like you intended to divide both sides buy ##(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}## but you neglected dividing ##5(a-x)^\frac{1}{3}## by ##(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}## .

SammyS said:
It looks like you intended to divide both sides buy ##(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}## but you neglected dividing ##5(a-x)^\frac{1}{3}## by ##(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}## .
...I will check this again...

This
chwala said:
It would be interesting if i can get a different approach to this problem...i will check it out. I guess Binomial Theorem could apply though tedious.

Ok i am thinking along the lines of:

##\dfrac{(a+x)^\frac{2}{3}}{(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}}= 5(a-x)^\frac{1}{3} - 6(a-x)^\frac{2}{3}####(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}=5(a-x)^\frac{1}{3} - 6(a-x)^\frac{2}{3}####\dfrac {(a-x)^\frac{1}{3}[5-6(a-x)^\frac{1}{3}] }{(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}}=1##

Let

##a-x=k##
##a+x=m##

Then using the above... we shall get:

##6k^\frac{2}{3}-5k^\frac{1}{3}+1=0##

and

##m^\frac{1}{3}=1##

Let

##n=k^\frac{1}{3}##

then we shall have:

##6n^2-5n+1=0##

##n_1=0.5 ⇒k_1=0.125##

##n_2=0.333⇒k_2=0.037##

We know that

##m=1##

using, ##k=0.125## we shall have,

##a-x=0.125##
##a+x=1##

solving the simultaneous equation yields,

##-2x=-0.875##

##x=0.4375##

##⇒a=0.5625##

This may be unorthodox approach but hey let us do it!

We have,

##(a+x)^{\frac{2}{3}} + 6 (a-x)^{\frac{2}{3}}=5(a^2-x^2)^{\frac{1}{3}}##

I will still let

##m=a+x##

and

##k=a-x##

then,

##m^{\frac{2}{3}} + 6k^{\frac{2}{3}}=5m^{\frac{1}{3}}k^{\frac{1}{3}}##

##6k^{\frac{2}{3}}=m^{\frac{1}{3}}[5k^{\frac{1}{3}}-m^{\frac{1}{3}}]##

Let

##m^{\frac{1}{3}}=1##

then,

##6k^{\frac{2}{3}}-5k^{\frac{1}{3}}+1=0##

...

the other steps to solution shall remain as shown on the quoted post.

cheers!

chwala said:
ThisThis may be unorthodox approach but hey let us do it!

We have,

##(a+x)^{\frac{2}{3}} + 6 (a-x)^{\frac{2}{3}}=5(a^2-x^2)^{\frac{1}{3}}##

I will still let

##m=a+x##

and

##k=a-x##

then,

##m^{\frac{2}{3}} + 6k^{\frac{2}{3}}=5m^{\frac{1}{3}}k^{\frac{1}{3}}##

##6k^{\frac{2}{3}}=m^{\frac{1}{3}}[5k^{\frac{1}{3}}-m^{\frac{1}{3}}]##

Let

##m^{\frac{1}{3}}=1##

then,

##6k^{\frac{2}{3}}-5k^{\frac{1}{3}}+1=0##

...

the other steps to solution shall remain as shown on the quoted post.

cheers!
Why define m1/3=1?

Frabjous said:
Why define m1/3=1?
If you look at the solution, one variable, that is ##x## is dependant on the other variable ##a##...I can therefore choose to let my variable be equal to a certain value. The intention being to find any possible means to solve the equation (in my case using quadratic method).

Or is my thinking not correct?

lurflurf said:
What is partial integration?
Based on @vanhees71's subsequent response, he evidently meant "integration by parts." It's possible that he conflated the names of the techniques of integration by parts and integration by partial fraction decomposition.

chwala
chwala said:
If you look at the solution, one variable, that is ##x## is dependant on the other variable ##a##...I can therefore choose to let my variable be equal to a certain value. The intention being to find any possible means to solve the equation (in my case using quadratic method).

Or is my thinking not correct?
a is a constant and you were asked to solve for x(a).

You’ve added an equation, so you are solving for an intersection.

Last edited:
SammyS
Frabjous said:
a is a constant and you were asked to solve for x(a).

You’ve added an equation, so you are solving for an intersection.
@Frabjous that is true, I added an equation which led me to the final solution in terms of ##a## and ##x##. Check my post ##19## that has the continuation after i came up with the quadratic equation.

chwala said:
@Frabjous that is true, I added an equation which led me to the final solution. Check my post ##19## that has the continuation after i came up with the quadratic equation.
So what? You get one value of x for one value of a. The OP has the solution which has TWO values of x for a given value of a. The OP also has the solution for other values of a. You are missing a lot of solutions.

Frabjous said:
So what? You get one value of x for one value of a. The OP has the solution which has TWO values of x for a given value of a. The OP also has the solution for other values of a. You are missing a lot of solutions.
I will check if I can get other values by changing my ##m## value. Cheers man!

You are going to come up with a finite number number ‘n‘ of solutions. Given that there are an infinite number of solutions, your grade for the problem will be n/∞=0.

chwala
@chwala ,
Your response to my post (#22), although I made a mistake in that post of mine. It is corrected here:
SammyS said:
(My post (#22) in reference to your post (#19) )
It looks like you intended to divide both sides buy ##(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}## but you neglected dividing ##5(a-x)^\frac{1}{3}## by ##(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}## .

Correction:
... you neglected to divide ##6(a-x)^\frac{2}{3}## by ##(a+x)^\frac{1}{3}## .

chwala said:
This may be unorthodox approach but hey let us do it!

We have,

##(a+x)^{\frac{2}{3}} + 6 (a-x)^{\frac{2}{3}}=5(a^2-x^2)^{\frac{1}{3}}##

I will still let

##m=a+x##

and

##k=a-x##

then,

##m^{\frac{2}{3}} + 6k^{\frac{2}{3}}=5m^{\frac{1}{3}}k^{\frac{1}{3}}##
(I'll cut in here.)

This looks fine. In fact you could write that as;

##\displaystyle m^{\frac{2}{3}} -5m^{\frac{1}{3}}k^{\frac{1}{3}}+ 6k^{\frac{2}{3}}=0## ,

which can be factored quite nicely, by the way.

You then go on to state;
##6k^{\frac{2}{3}}=m^{\frac{1}{3}}[5k^{\frac{1}{3}}-m^{\frac{1}{3}}]##

Let

##m^{\frac{1}{3}}=1##

then,

##6k^{\frac{2}{3}}-5k^{\frac{1}{3}}+1=0##
...

the other steps to solution shall remain as shown on the quoted post.

cheers!
Although you get the same quadratic equation as you did in the "quoted post" (#19), that is only due to the choice of ##m=1##.

For other values of ##m##, posts 19 and 22 will not agree.

chwala
SammyS said:
@chwala ,
Your response to my post (#22), although I made a mistake in that post of mine. It is corrected here:Your post(#23)
(I'll cut in here.)

This looks fine. In fact you could write that as;

##\displaystyle m^{\frac{2}{3}} -5m^{\frac{1}{3}}k^{\frac{1}{3}}+ 6k^{\frac{2}{3}}=0## ,

which can be factored quite nicely, by the way.

You then go on to state;

Although you get the same quadratic equation as you did in the "quoted post" (#19), that is only due to the choice of ##m=1##.

For other values of ##m##, posts 19 and 22 will not agree.
Thanks can see that we end up with what was previously found by other members:

... i.e

##x^2-5xy+6y^2=0##

##(x-2y)(x-3y)=0##

...

where;

##x=m^\frac{1}{3}##

and

##y=k^\frac{1}{3}##

SammyS
Mark44 said:
Based on @vanhees71's subsequent response, he evidently meant "integration by parts." It's possible that he conflated the names of the techniques of integration by parts and integration by partial fraction decomposition.
I think it's a "Germanism", because in German we call this technique "partielle Integration". Obviously in English it's exclusively called "integration by parts".

hutchphd and chwala

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