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Homework Help: Prove by induction that nCk is always a natural number

  1. Sep 21, 2009 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data

    Prove by induction that [tex]\binom{n}{k}[/tex] is always a natural number.

    2. Relevant equations

    The problem requires that we use the fact that

    3. The attempt at a solution

    Well, the first part of this question requires a proof of (1), which was easy enough just using

    What I'm not sure of is how to perform the induction. I took the base case of n=1.

    and from (1) we obtain that, with n=1, k=1,

    Can I now say that [tex]\binom{n+1}{k}[/tex] is always the sum of two natural numbers, and is therefore natural?

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 22, 2009 #2


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    Hi nietzsche! :smile:

    I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill :redface:

    to prove (7 5) is an integer, all you need is that (6 5) and (6 4) are integers …

    so just be systematic in what order you do the proof

    (and remember it doesn't work for k = 0, so you have to prove it for all (n 0) separately, not just for (1 0) :wink:)
  4. Sep 22, 2009 #3
    I've no clue as to how to prove that (6 5) and (6 4) are integers. Do I still have to consider a base case of n=1? This question is driving me mad.
  5. Sep 22, 2009 #4

    I found this, which is the same question. According to this,

    \text{Let }n=0.
    \text{ If }k=0,
    \binom{0}{0} = 1
    \text{ (by definition)}
    \text{ and if }k \not= 0,
    \binom{0}{k} = 0
    \text{ (by definition).}
    \binom{n+1}{k} = \binom{n}{k-1}+\binom{n}{k},
    \text{ it follows from induction that for all }
    n, \binom{n}{k}
    \text{is an integer.}

    Not sure if what I'm saying is valid. What do yall think?
  6. Sep 22, 2009 #5


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    Yes, if you're happy with (n k) = 0 for n < k, then that proof is correct.

    But you need to specify the ordering …

    Start: "It works for n = 0 and for any k, and then by induction on n … " :smile:
  7. Sep 22, 2009 #6
    Thank you very much.
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