Pre-RMO or RMO algebra practice problem: infinite product

Find the product of the following infinite number of terms:

\frac{7}{9} \times \frac{26}{28} \times \frac{63}{65} \times \ldots = \prod_{m=2}^{\infty}\frac{m^{3}-1}{m^{3}+1}

m^{3}-1=(m-1)(m^{2}+m+1), and also, m^{3}+1=(m+1)(m^{2}-m+1)=(m-1+2)((m-1)^{2}+(m-1)+1)

Hence, we get P_{m}=\frac{7}{9} \times \frac{26}{28} \times \frac{63}{65} \times \ldots \times \frac{m^{3}-1}{m^{3}+1}, which in turn, equals

(\frac{1}{3} \times \frac{7}{3}) \times (\frac{2}{4} \times \frac{13}{7}) \times (\frac{3}{5} \times \frac{21}{13})\times \ldots (\frac{m-1}{m+1} \times \frac{m^{2}+m+1}{m^{2}-m+1}), that is, in turn equal to

\frac{2}{3} \times \frac{m^{2}+m+1}{m(m+1)}, that is, in turn equal to

\frac{}{} \times (1+ \frac{1}{m(m+1)}), so that when m \rightarrow \infty, and then P_{m} \rightarrow 2/3.

personal comment: I did not find this solution within my imagination !!! ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

The credit for the solution goes to “Popular Problems and Puzzles in Mathematics” by Asok Kumar Mallik, IISc Press, Foundation Books. Thanks Prof. Mallik !!


Nalin Pithwa


Algebra Training for RMO and Pre-RMO: let’s continue: Fibonacci Problem and solution

Fibonacci Problem:

Leonardo of Pisa (famous as Fibonacci) (1173) wrote a book “Liber Abaci” (1202), wherein he introduced Hindu-Arabic numerals in Europe. In 1225, Frederick II declared him as the greatest mathematician in Europe when he posed the following problem to defeat his opponents.


Determine the rational numbers x, y and z to satisfy the following equations:

x^{2}+5=y^{2} and x^{2}-5=z^{2}.


Definition: Euler defined a congruent number to be a rational number that is the area of a right-angled triangle, which has rational sides. With p, q, and r as a Pythagorean triplet such that r^{2}=p^{2}+q^{2}, then \frac{pq}{2} is a congruent number.

It can be shown that square of a rational number cannot be a congruent number. In other words, there is no right-angled triangle with rational sides, which has an area as 1, or 4, or \frac{1}{4}, and so on.

Characteristics of a congruent number: A positive rational number n is a congruent number, if and only if there exists a rational number u such that u^{2}-n and u^{2}+n are the squares of rational numbers. (Thus, the puzzle will be solved if we can show that 5 is a congruent number and we can determine the rational number u(=x)). First, let us prove the characterisitic mentioned above.

Necessity: Suppose n is a congruent number. Then, for some rational number p, q, and r, we have r^{2}=p^{2}+q^{2} and \frac{pq}{2}=n. In that case,

\frac{p+q}{2}, \frac{p-q}{2} and n are rational numbers and we have

(\frac{p+q}{2})^{2}=\frac{p^{2}+q^{2}}{4}+\frac{pq}{2}=(\frac{r}{2})^{2}+n and similarly,


Setting u=\frac{r}{2}, we get u^{2}-n and u^{2}+n are squares of rational numbers.


Suppose n and u are rational numbers such that \sqrt{u^{2}-n} and \sqrt{u^{2}+n} are rational, when

p=\sqrt{u^{2}+n}+\sqrt{u^{2}-n} and q=\sqrt{u^{2}+n}-\sqrt{u^{2}-n}

and 2n are rational numbers satisfying p^{2}+q^{2}=(2n)^{2} is a rational square and also \frac{pq}{2}=n, a rational number which is a congruent number.

So, we see that the Pythagorean triplets can lead our search for a congruent number. Sometimes a Pythagorean triplet can lead to more than one congruent number as can be seen with (9,40,41). This set obviously gives 180 as a congruent number. But, as 180=5 \times 36=5 \times 6^{2}, we can also consider a rational Pythagorean triplet (\frac{9}{6}, \frac{40}{6}, \frac{41}{6}), which gives a congruent number 5 (we were searching for this congruent number in this puzzle!). We also determine the corresponding u=\frac{r}{2}=\frac{41}{12}.

The puzzle/problem is now solved with x=\frac{41}{12}, which gives y=\frac{49}{12}, and z=\frac{31}{12}.

One can further show that if we take three rational squares in AP, u^{2}-n, and u^{2}, and u^{2}+n, with their product defined as a rational square v^{2} and n as a congruent number, then x=u^{2}, y=v is a rational point on the elliptic curve y^{2}=x^{3}-n^{2}x.


1) Popular Problems and Puzzles in Mathematics: Asok Kumar Mallik, IISc Press, Foundation Books, Amazon India link:

2) Use the internet, or just Wikipedia to explore more information on Fibonacci Numbers, Golden Section, Golden Angle, Golden Rectangle and Golden spiral. You will be overjoyed to find relationships amongst all the mentioned “stuff”.


Nalin Pithwa

Euler Series question and solution


Mengoli had posed the following series to be evaluated:

1+ \frac{1}{2^{2}} + \frac{1}{3^{2}} + \frac{1}{4^{2}} + \ldots.

Some great mathematicians, including Liebnitz, John Bernoulli and D’Alembert, failed to compute this infinite series. Euler established himself as the best mathematician of Europe (in fact, one of the greatest mathematicians in history) by evaluating this series initially by a not-so-rigorous method. Later on, he gave alternative and more rigorous ways of getting the same result.

Prove that the series converges and gets an upper limit. Then, try to evaluate the series.


Due Nicolas Oresine:

Consider the following infinite series: \phi(s)=1 + \frac{1}{2^{s}} + \frac{1}{3^{s}} + \frac{1}{4^{s}} + ldots

We can re-write the preceding series as follows: \phi(s) = 1+ (\frac{1}{2^{s}}+\frac{1}{3^{s}}) + (\frac{1}{4^{s}} + \frac{1}{5^{s}} + \frac{1}{6^{s}} + \frac{1}{7^{s}}) + \ldots, which in turn is less than

1 + (\frac{2}{2^{s}}) + (\frac{4}{4^{s}}) + \ldots. Now, the RHS of this can be re-written as

1+(\frac{2}{2^{s}}) + (\frac{4}{4^{s}}) + \ldots=1 + \frac{1}{2^{(s-1)}}+ (\frac{1}{2^{(s-1)}})^{2} + \ldots, which is a geometric series and it is given by


Now, we can say that \phi(s) will converge if \frac{1}{2^{(s-1)}}<1 \Longrightarrow s >1.

In order to prove what is asked, we start with \phi(s)=1 + \frac{1}{2^{s}}+ \frac{1}{3^{s}}+ \frac{1}{4^{s}}+\ldots

And, then multiply both sides by \frac{1}{2^{s}} and then subtract the resulting equation from the preceding equation to get


where all the terms containing the reciprocals of the sth power of even numbers vanished.

Repeating this procedure with \frac{1}{3^{s}} gives

(1-\frac{1}{2^{s}})(1-\frac{1}{3^{s}})\phi(s)=1+\frac{1}{5^{s}}+ \ldots

where all terms containing the reciprocals of the sth power of multiples of 3 vanished.

By continuing this with all prime numbers, we get

\prod_{p}(1-\frac{1}{p^{s}})\phi(s)=1, where p represents all prime numbers. Thus, we get

\phi(s)=1 + \frac{}{} + \frac{}{} + \frac{}{} + \ldots =\frac{1}{\prod_{p}(1-\frac{1}{p^{s}})}

This is a remarkable result because the LHS is concerned with only positive integers, whereas the RHS is concerned with only primes. This result is known as the “Golden Key of Euler”.

Riemann created his famous \zeta- function by extending the variable s to the entire complex plane, except s=1 withย 

\zeta(s)=1+ \frac{1}{2^{s}} + \frac{1}{3^{s}} + \ldots .

This function is now very famous as the Riemann zeta function.

How can we apply the Golden Key of Euler to Mengoli’s question that we started with?

Ans. In the Golden Key of Euler, substitute s=2.

Hence, we get the upper limit of the given series is 2.

Euler’s proof (1775):

The proof ran as follows:

It is a little roundabout way of arriving at the correct answer from a known result. Consider McLaurin’s series expansion of sin x:

\sin{(x)}=x - \frac{x^{3}}{3!} + \frac{x^{5}}{5!} -\frac{x^{7}}{7!} + \frac{x^{9}}{9!} + \ldots

By dividing both sides by x and then substituting y=x^{2} on the right side, we get the following:

\frac{\sin{(x)}}{x} = 1-\frac{y}{3!} + \frac{y^{2}}{5!} - \frac{y^{3}}{7!} + \ldots

By taking a special value of x=n\pi (and, hence y=n^{2}\pi^{2}), we get the following:

\frac{\sin (n\pi)}{(n\pi)}=0=1-\frac{y}{3!} + \frac{y^{2}}{5!} - \frac{y^{3}}{5!}+ \ldots

Noteย  that preceding equation is not a polynomial, but an infinite series.ย But, Euler still treated it as a polynomial (that is why it was not accepted as a rigorous result) and observed that this “infinite” polynomial has roots equal to y_{n}=n^{2}x^{2}. Then, Euler had used the fact that the sum of the reciprocals of the roots is determined by the coefficient of the linear term (here, the y-term) when the constant is made unity. (check this as homework quiz, for a quadratic to be convinced).ย So, Euler had arrived at the following result:

1-\sum_{i=1}^{\infty}\frac{6}{y_{n}}=0 \Longrightarrow \sum_{i=1}^{\infty}\frac{1}{y_{n}}=\frac{1}{6}. With y_{n}=n^{2}(\pi)^{2}, we get the following:

\sum_{i=1}^{\infty}\frac{1}{n^{2}(\pi)^{2}}=\frac{1}{6} or, \sum_{1}^{n^{2}}\frac{1}{n^{2}}=\frac{(\pi)^{2}}{6}.

Another proof also attributed to Euler that uses the series expansion of sin (x) goes as follows below:

\sin {(x)} has roots given by 0, \pm \pi, \pm 2\pi, \pm 3\pi, …So does this polynomial that Euler reportedly constructed:


So, Euler considered the preceding equation to be equivalent to:

\sin{(x)}=x - \frac{x^{3}}{3!} + \frac{x^{5}}{5!} - \frac{x^{7}}{7!} + \ldots=0

Then, he had equated the coefficient of x^{3} in both to get the result:

\sum_{n=1}^{\infty}\frac{1}{n^{2}(\pi)^{2}} = \frac{1}{3!} = \frac{1}{6}.

Thus, \sum_{n=1}^{\infty}\frac{1}{n^{2}}=\frac{(\pi)^{2}}{6}.

Later on, Euler had provided a few more alternate and rigorous proofs of this result.

Reference: Popular Problems and Puzzles in Mathematics by Asok Kumar Mallik, IISc Press, Foundation Books.

Amazon India link:

Hope you all enjoyed it — learning to think like Euler !! By the way, it did take a long time for even analysis to become so rigorous as it is now….You might like this observation a lot. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

Nalin Pithwa.

RMO Training: taking help from Nordic mathematical contest: 1988


Let m_{n} be a smallest value of the function f_{n}(x)=\sum_{k=0}^{2n}x^{k}. Prove that m_{n} \rightarrow \frac{1}{2} when n \rightarrow \infty.


For n>1,


From this, we see that f_{n}(x)\geq 1 for x \leq -1 and x\geq 0. Consequently, f_{n} attains its maximum value in the interval (-1,0). On this interval


So, m_{n} \geq \frac{1}{2}. But,

m_{n} \leq f_{n}(-1+\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}})=\frac{1}{2-\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}}+\frac{(1-\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}})^{2n+1}}{2-\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}}

As n \rightarrow \infty, the first term on the right hand side tends to the limit \frac{1}{2}. In the second term, the factor


of the numerator tends to zero because

\lim_{k \rightarrow \infty}(1-\frac{1}{k})^{k}=e^{-1}<1.

So, \lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}m_{n}=\frac{1}{2}

auf wiedersehen,

Nalin Pithwa.

Reference: Nordic Mathematical Contest, 1987-2009.


An easy inequality from Nordic mathematical contests !?

Reference: Nordic Mathematical Contest, 1987-2009, R. Todev.


Let a, b, and c be real numbers different from 0ย  and a \geq b \geq c. Prove that inequality

\frac{a^{3}-c^{3}}{3} \geq abc(\frac{a-b}{c} + \frac{b-c}{a})

holds. When does the equality hold?


We know that a, b and c are real, distinct and also non-zero and also that a \geq b \geq c.

Hence, c-b \leq 0 \leq a-b, we have (a-b)^{3}\geq (c-b)^{3}, or

a^{3}-3a^{a}b+3ab^{2}-b^{3} \geq c^{3}-3bc^{2}+3b^{2}c-b^{3}

On simplifying this, we immediately have

\frac{1}{3}{(a^{3}-c^{3})} \geq a^{2}b-ab^{2}+b^{2}c-bc^{2}=abc(\frac{a-b}{c}+\frac{b-c}{a}).

A sufficient condition for equality is a=c. If a>c, then (a-b)^{3}>(c-b)^{3}. which makes the proved inequality a strict one. So, a=c is a necessary condition for equality too.

-Nalin Pithwa.