Saturday, May 23, 2015

[S2_20150523XFDS] Numbers that can be Difference of Squares


     This is likely an primary mathematics olympiad-type of question, but lower secondary pupils can also try this.  It involves deeper thinking.  But where do we begin?  Sometimes it is good to begin from the beginning, and then follow your nose. 


     Suppose  N  is a whole number such that  1 < N < 1000  and  N  can be expressed as
                                        N = a2b2  = (ab)(a + b)
a difference of squares.  So  N  can be split as a product of two factors  (a + b)  and  (ab).  Observe that     (a + b) – (ab) = 2b,       which is an even number.
     The difference between the two factors is an even number.  This can only mean that the two factors are  both odd  or  both even.  You cannot have one of them odd and the other even, because when you subtract them, you would get an odd number.  We now have three cases:-
     Case 1a:  N  is even but not divisible by 4.
     Case 1b:  N  is divisible by 4 (and, of course, is even)
     Case 2:    N  is odd  i.e. both  (a + b)  and  (ab)  are odd

Ans:  750

     In the foregoing, it is possible for  b  to be zero.  0 happens to be a perfect square, because  02 = 0.  However, we need not worry about this, because the above algebra is general enough to cover the case where  b  is  0.
   We have solved the problem using logic, even-vs-odd analysis and the three important algebraic identities under reminders (highlighted in orange).  We also used the special cases (highlighted in light blue) and made observations based on them.

H04. Look for pattern(s)
H05. Work backwards
H09. Restate the problem in another way
H11. Solve part of the problem
H12* Think of a related problem
H13* Use Equation / write a Mathematical Sentence

Suitable Levels
Primary School Mathematics Olympiad
Secondary 2 Mathematics » grade 8 (expansion and factorisation)
* anyone who is game for a challenge in algebra and number theory

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