1988 IMO Problems/Problem 4
Show that the solution set of the inequality
is a union of disjoint intervals, the sum of whose length is .
Consider the graph of . On the values of between and for , the terms of the form for have a finite range. In contrast, the term has an infinite range, from to . Similarly, the term has infinite range from to . Thus, since the two undefined values occur at the distinct endpoints, we can deduce that takes on all values between and for . Thus, by the Intermediate Value Theorem, we are garunteed a such that . Additionally, we have that for , the value of goes from to , since as increases, all the terms go to . Thus, there exists some such that and so for .
So, we have such that . There are obviously no other such since yields a polynomial of degree when combining fractions. Thus, we have that the solution set to the inequality is the union of the intervals (since if for then there would exist another solution to the equation .
Thus we have proven that the solution set is the union of disjoint intervals. Now we are to prove that the sum of their lengths is .
The sum of their lengths is . We have that the equation yields a polynomial with roots . Thus, opposite of the coeficient of divided by the leading coefficient is the sum of the . It is easy to see that the coefficient of is . Thus, since the leading coefficient is we have . Thus, the sum of the lengths of the intervals is as desired.
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