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Prove (n^5 - n) is divisible by 5 by induction

  1. Jul 20, 2008 #1
    here's what Ive done so far...

    P(n) = n^5 - n
    when n = 5
    5 * 4* 131 = 620
    620 is a factor of 5. therefore true for n=5

    assume true n=k
    P(k) = k^5 - k

    when n = k+1

    P(k+1) = (k+1)(k+1-1)((k+1)^3 + k+2)
    = (k+1)(k)(k^3 + 3k^2 + 3k + 1 + k + 2)
    = (k+1)(k)(k^3 + 3k^2 + 4k + 3)
    = (k^2+k)(k^3 + 3k^2 + 4k + 3)
    = k^5 + 4k^4 + 7k^3 + 7k^2 + 3k

    what shall I do from there?

    thanks xxx
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2008 #2


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    Therefore (n+1)^5-(n+1)=n^5-n+K, where K is divisible by 5.
  4. Jul 21, 2008 #3


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    Fizza, why do you start with n= 5 as base case? The statement is also true for n= 1, 2, 3, and 4.

    Also you did not use the fact that you are assuming k5- k is a multiple of 5. Follow mathman's suggestion.
  5. Jul 21, 2008 #4
    I'm trying to figure out how the problem was built in the first place.

    I'd imagine a similar statement is true for any prime power, since the 'prime rows' of the Pascal triangle are divisible by that prime (except for the ending 1's).
  6. Jul 21, 2008 #5


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    So you are asking, "Is it true that np- n is divisible by p for p any prime?"

    Yes, it is and for exactly the reason you state: if p is prime then [itex]\left(\begin{array}{c}p \\ i\end{array}\right)[/itex] for p prime and 0< i< p is divisible by p. That itself can be proven directly from the definition:
    [tex]\left(\begin{array}{c}p \\ i\end{array}\right)= \frac{p!}{i!(p-i)!}[/tex]
    as long as i is neither 0 nor p, 0<p-i< p and so neither i! nor (p- i)! have a factor of p. Since p! does, the binomial coefficient is divisible by p. (We need p to be prime so that other factors in i! and (p- i)! do not "combine" to cancel p.)

    Now, to show that np- n is divisible by p, do exactly what mathman suggested.

    First, when n= 1, 1p- 1= 0 which is divisible by p. Now assume the statement is true for some k: kp- k= mp for some integer m. Then, by the binomial theorem,
    [tex](k+1)^p= \sum_{i=0}^p \left(\begin{array}{c}p \\ i\end{array}\right) k^i[/itex]
    subtracting k+1 from that does two things: first it cancels the i=0 term which is 1. Also we can combine the "k" with the i= p term which is kp so we have kp- k= mp. The other terms, all with 0< i< p, contain, as above, factors of p.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2008
  7. Aug 16, 2008 #6
    Hello hall of Ivy

    What would be the converse of this ^^^? Could you use "the assuming the opposite" method to prove whether or not this holds?

  8. Aug 16, 2008 #7


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    Not to be too picky but your example shows n = 5 yields 620. It should be 2620, but of course satisfies the condition.

    Secondly and more importantly I don't think the factors of n^5 - n are simplified enough.

    I would note that:
    n^5 - n = n(n^4-1) = n*(n^2-1)*(n^2+1) = (n-1)*n*(n+1)*(n^2+1)

    Perhaps you can exploit the fact that for any n you necessarily have the number above and below that number that must be a factor of the result?
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