Saturday, March 7, 2015

[Pri20150306MOD] A Telescope Too Far?


     This is a nasty multiple-choice question to be set for a primary 6 (~ grade 6) pupil for a test.  It could also be a time trap as the pupil might spend a lot of time to no avail just to try to score that miserable mark.  With advanced knowledge, we can solve this using telescoping sums (a.k.a. the method of differences), where many terms cancel and the sum can be shortened, much like a telescope.

     However, this solution looks like over-kill.  Is there a solution that is more accesible to a primary 6 pupil?  Read on!

A Simpler Solution?
     We observe that a denominator of  5  is common.  In fact, since every term has an even factor, we have a common factor of 2 in the denominator also.  That means every term in the sum can be expressed as 1/10 of something [ Heuristic H09 ].  We can quickly work out the first few partial sums and express each of them as  1/10 of something.  Heuristic H04 ]

     Tabulating the results [ H02 & H03 ], we observe that each partial sum is  1/10 of something slightly less than ½.  So we try to express them as ½ minus something.  How?  We can subtract to find out.  [ H05 ]  For example,  if  5/12 = 1/2 – ???   then   ??? = 1/25/12 = 1/12.

     Later on, we notice   [ H04 again ] another pattern: the factors in the denominators of the subtracted quantity matches the last two denominators of the last term.  If we considered the full sum, then what would those factors be?  (See the part highlighted in yellow).  These would be 20 and 21, as per the last term of the series.  Using this pattern, we work out the required sum as follows

That is the answer!

H02. Use a diagram / model
H03. Make a systematic list
H04. Look for pattern(s)
H05. Work backwards
H09. Restate the problem in another way

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