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The Computer Laboratory

Practice Paper 1 Question 15

Does \(30\) divide \(n^5-n\) for all positive integers \(n\)?

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Warm-up Questions

  1. Factorise \(n^2-2n-3\).
  2. Is \(n^2+n\) always even when \(n\) is an integer?
  3. Does \(6\) divide \(100002\)? Try to reason about the divisors of both numbers.


  • Hint 1
    How do you split \(30\) into a product of prime factors?
  • Hint 2
    Can you factorise \(n^5 - n\)?
  • Hint 3
    You should obtain \(n(n-1)(n+1)(n^2+1)\). What can you say about the product of 3 consecutive numbers in terms of divisibility by \(2\) and \(3\)?
  • Hint 4
    If you assume that \(5\) divides \(n^5-n\), how can you prove that 5 divides \((n+1)^5-(n+1)\)?


First notice that \(30=2\cdot3\cdot5\). Since \(2\), \(3\) and \(5\) are all coprime we will prove that each of them divides \(n^5-n\) and hence conclude that their product does too. We now factorise \(n^5-n\): \[ \begin{align} n^5-n &= n(n^4-1) \\ &= n(n^2-1)(n^2+1)\\ &= n(n-1)(n+1)(n^2+1) \end{align} \] The product \((n-1)n(n+1)\) is of 3 consecutive numbers, hence necessarily both 2 and 3 must divide it. We must now prove divisibility by \(5\). There are several approaches to do this, but here we shall use induction. It's easy to verify the base case for \(n=0\) or \(n=1\). Then do the inductive step: \[ \begin{align} (n+1)^5 - (n+1) &= n^5 + 5n^4 + 10n^3 + 10n^2 + 5n - n \\ &= n^5-n + 5(n^4+2n^3+2n^2+n) \end{align} \] First part is divisible by \(5\) owing to the induction hypothesis, while the rest is obviously a multiple of 5.

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