A good way to start mathematical studies …

I would strongly suggest to read the book “Men of Mathematics” by E. T. Bell.

It helps if you start at a young age. It doesn’t matter if you start later because time is relative!! 🙂

Well, I would recommend you start tinkering with mathematics by playing with nuggets of number theory, and later delving into number theory. An accessible way for anyone is “A Friendly Introduction to Number Theory” by Joseph H. Silverman. It includes some programming exercises also, which is sheer fun.

One of the other ways I motivate myself is to find out biographical or autobiographical sketches of mathematicians, including number theorists, of course. In this, the internet is an extremely useful information tool for anyone willing to learn…

Below is a list of some famous number theorists, and then there is a list of perhaps, not so famous number theorists — go ahead, use the internet and find out more about number theory, history of number theory, the tools and techniques of number theory, the personalities of number theorists, etc. Become a self-learner, self-propeller…if you develop a sharp focus, you can perhaps even learn from MIT OpenCourseWare, Department of Mathematics.

Famous Number Theorists (just my opinion);

1) Pythagoras
2) Euclid
3) Diophantus
4) Eratosthenes
5) P. L. Tchebycheff (also written as Chebychev or Chebyshev).
6) Leonhard Euler
7) Christian Goldbach
8) Lejeune Dirichlet
9) Pierre de Fermat
10) Carl Friedrich Gauss
11) R. D. Carmichael
12) Edward Waring
13) John Wilson
14) Joseph Louis Lagrange
15) Legendre
16) J. J. Sylvester
11) Leonoardo of Pisa aka Fibonacci.
15) Srinivasa Ramanujan
16) Godfrey H. Hardy
17) Leonard E. Dickson
18) Paul Erdos
19) Sir Andrew Wiles
20) George Polya
21) Sophie Germain
24) Niels Henrik Abel
25) Richard Dedekind
26) David Hilbert
27) Carl Jacobi
28) Leopold Kronecker
29) Marin Mersenne
30) Hermann Minkowski
31) Bernhard Riemann

Perhaps, not-so-famous number theorists (just my opinion):
1) Joseph Bertrand
2) Regiomontanus
3) K. Bogart
4) Richard Brualdi
5) V. Chvatal
6) J. Conway
7) R. P. Dilworth
8) Martin Gardner
9) R. Graham
10) M. Hall
11) Krishnaswami Alladi
12) F. Harary
13) P. Hilton
14) A. J. Hoffman
15) V. Klee
16) D. Kleiman
17) Donald Knuth
18) E. Lawler
19) A. Ralston
20) F. Roberts
21) Gian Carlo-Rota
22) Bruce Berndt
23) Richard Stanley
24) Alan Tucker
25) Enrico Bombieri

Happy discoveries lie on this journey…
-Nalin Pithwa.

Any integer can be written as the sum of the cubes of 5 integers, not necessarily distinct

Question: Prove that any integer can be written as the sum of the cubes of five integers, not necessarily.


We use the identity 6k = (k+1)^{3} + (k-1)^{3}- k^{3} - k^{3} for k=\frac{n^{3}-n}{6}=\frac{n(n-1)(n+1)}{6}, which is an integer for all n. We obtain

n^{3}-n = (\frac{n^{3}-n}{6}+1)^{3} + (\frac{n^{3}-n}{6}-1)^{3} - (\frac{n^{3}-n}{6})^{3} - (\frac{n^{3}-n}{6}).

Hence, n is equal to the sum

(-n)^{3} + (\frac{n^{3}-n}{6})^{3} + (\frac{n^{3}-n}{6})^{3} + (\frac{n-n^{3}}{6}-1)^{3}+ (\frac{n-n^{3}}{6}+1)^{3}.

More later,
Nalin Pithwa.

A beautiful example of use of theory of congruences in engineering

The theory of congruences created by Gauss long ago is used in error control coding or error correction. The theory of congruences is frequently used to append an extra check digit to identification numbers, in order to recognize transmission errors or forgeries. Personal identification numbers of some kind appear in passports, credit cards, bank accounts, and a variety of other settings.

Some banks use (perhaps) an eight-digit identification number a_{1}a_{2}\ldots a_{8} together with a final check digit a_{0}. The check digit is usually obtained by multiplying the digits a_{i} for 1 \leq i \leq 8 by certain “weights” and calculating the sum of the weighted products modulo 10. For instance, the check digit might be chosen to satisfy:

a_{0} \equiv 7a_{1} + 3a_{2} + 9a_{3} + 7a_{4} + 3a_{5} + 9a_{6} + 7a_{7} + 3a_{8} {\pmod 10}

The identification number 815042169 would be printed on the cheque.

This weighting scheme for assigning cheque digits detects any single digit error in the identification number. For suppose that the digit a_{i} is replaced by a different a_{i}. By the manner in which the check digit is calculated, the difference between the correct a_{9} and the new a_9^{'} is

a_{9} - a_9^{'} \equiv k(a_{i} - a_{i}^{'}) \pmod {10}

where k is 7, 3, or 9 depending on the position of a_{i}^{'}. Because k(a_{i}-a_{i}^{'}) \not\equiv 0 \pmod {10}, it follows that a_{9} \neq a_{9}^{'} and the error is apparent. Thus, if the valid number 81504216 were incorrectly entered as 81504316 into a computer programmed to calculate check digits, an 8 would come up rather than the expected 9.

The modulo 10 approach is not entirely effective, for it does not always detect the common error of transposing distinct adjacent entries a and b within the string of digits. To illustrate, the identification numbers 81504216 and 81504261 have the same check digit 9 when our example weights are used. (The problem occurs when |a-b|=5). More sophisticated methods are available, with larger moduli and different weights, that would prevent this possible error.

-Nalin Pithwa.

AMS Menger Awards 2018

(shared from the AMS website for motivational purposes)

The AMS presented the Karl Menger Memorial Awards at the 2018 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), May 13-18, 2018 in Pittsburgh, PA. The First Place Award of US$2000 was given to Ryusei Sakai, Sota Kojima, and Yuta Yokohama, Shiga Prefectural Hikone Higashi High School, Japan, for “Extension of Soddy’s Hexlet: Number of Spheres Generated by Nested Hexlets.” [Photo: bottom row (left to right): Dr. Keith Conrad (committee chair), Rachana Madhukara, Yuta Yokohama, Sota Kojima, Ryusei Sakai; top row (left to right): Chavdar Lalov, Gianfranco Cortes-Arroyo, Gopal Goel, Savelii Novikov, Boris Baranov. Not pictured: Muhammad Abdulla. Photo by the Society for Science & the Public.]
The Menger Awards Committee also presented the following awards:

  • Second Award of $1,000: Gopal Krishna Goel (Krishna Homeschool, OR), “Discrete Derivatives of Random Matrix Models and the Gaussian Free Field” and Rachana Madhukara, Canyon Crest Academy, CA, “Asymptotics of Character Sums”
  • Third Award of $500: Chavdar Tsvetanov Lalov, Geo Milev High School of Mathematics, Bulgaria, “Generating Functions of the Free Generators of Some Submagmas of the Free Omega Magma and Planar Trees”; Gianfranco Cortes-Arroyo, West Port High School, FL, Generalized Persistence Parameters for Analyzing Stratified Pseudomanifolds”; Muhammad Ugur Oglu Abdulla, West Shore Junior/Senior High School, FL, “A Fine Classification of Second Minimal Odd Orbits”; Boris Borisovich Baranov and Savelii Novikov, School 564, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, “On Two Letter Identities in Lie Rings”
  • Certificate of Honorable Mention: Dmitrii Mikhailovskii, School 564, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, “New Explicit Solution to the N-Queens Problem and the Millennium Problem”; Chi-Lung Chiang and Kai Wang, The Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University, Chinese Taipei, “’Equal Powers Turn Out’ – Conics, Quadrics, and Beyond”; Kayson Taka Hansen, Twin Falls High School, ID, “From Lucas Sequences to Lucas Groups”; Gustavo Xavier Santiago-Reyes and Omar Alejandro Santiago-Reyes, Escuela Secundaria Especializada en Ciencias, Matematicas y TecnologĂ­a, Puerto Rico, “Mathematics of Gene Regulation: Control Theory for Ternary Monomial Dynamical Systems”; Karthik Yegnesh, Methacton High School, PA, “Braid Groups on Triangulated Surfaces and Singular Homology”

A booklet on Karl Menger was also given to each winner. This is the 28th year of the presentation of the Karl Menger Memorial Awards. The Society’s participation in the Intel ISEF is supported in part by income from the Karl Menger Fund, which was established by the family of the late Karl Menger. For more information about this program or to make contributions to this fund, contact the AMS Development Office.

Cheers to the winners,

Nalin Pithwa.

Intel Pentium P5 floating point unit error (1994) — an RMO problem !!!


Two number theorists, bored in a chemistry lab, played a game with a large flask containing 2 litres of a colourful chemical solution and an ultra-accurate pipette. The game was that they would take turns to recall a prime number p such that p+2 is also a prime number. Then, the first number theorist would pipette out 1/p litres of chemical and the second \frac{1}{(p+2)} litres. How many times do they have to play this game to empty the flask completely?


A bit of real analysis is required.


I will publish the reference when I post the solution. So that all students/readers can curb their impulse to see the solution immediately!!!

I hope you will be hooked to the problem in a second….!!! Here is a beautiful utility of pure math! 🙂


Nalin Pithwa

PS: I do not know if the above problem did (or, will?? )appear as RMO question. It is just my wild fun with math to kindle the intellect of students in analysis !! 🙂