2015 AMC 12B Problems/Problem 12


Let $a$, $b$, and $c$ be three distinct one-digit numbers. What is the maximum value of the sum of the roots of the equation $(x-a)(x-b)+(x-b)(x-c)=0$ ?

$\textbf{(A)}\; 15 \qquad\textbf{(B)}\; 15.5 \qquad\textbf{(C)}\; 16 \qquad\textbf{(D)} 16.5 \qquad\textbf{(E)}\; 17$

Video Solution


~ pi_is_3.14

Solution 1

The left-hand side of the equation can be factored as $(x-b)(x-a+x-c) = (x-b)(2x-(a+c))$, from which it follows that the roots of the equation are $x=b$, and $x=\tfrac{a+c}{2}$. The sum of the roots is therefore $b + \tfrac{a+c}{2}$, and the maximum is achieved by choosing $b=9$, and $\{a,c\}=\{7,8\}$. Therefore the answer is $9 + \tfrac{7+8}{2} = 9 + 7.5 = \boxed{\textbf{(D)}\; 16.5}.$

Solution 2

Expand the polynomial. We get $(x-a)(x-b)+(x-b)(x-c)=x^2-(a+b)x+ab+x^2-(b+c)x+bc=2x^2-(a+2b+c)x+(ab+bc).$

Now, consider a general quadratic equation $ax^2+bx+c=0.$ The two solutions to this are \[\dfrac{-b}{2a}+\dfrac{\sqrt{b^2-4ac}}{2a}, \dfrac{-b}{2a}-\dfrac{\sqrt{b^2-4ac}}{2a}.\] The sum of these roots is \[\dfrac{-b}{a}.\]

Therefore, reconsidering the polynomial of the problem, the sum of the roots is \[\dfrac{a+2b+c}{2}.\] Now, to maximize this, it is clear that $b=9.$ Also, we must have $a=8, c=7$ (or vice versa). The reason $a,c$ have to equal these values instead of larger values is because each of $a,b,c$ is distinct.

See Also

2015 AMC 12B (ProblemsAnswer KeyResources)
Preceded by
Problem 11
Followed by
Problem 13
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All AMC 12 Problems and Solutions

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