1988 IMO Problems/Problem 6


Let $a$ and $b$ be positive integers such that $ab + 1$ divides $a^{2} + b^{2}$. Show that $\frac {a^{2} + b^{2}}{ab + 1}$ is the square of an integer.


Choose integers $a,b,k$ such that $a^2+b^2=k(ab+1)$ Now, for fixed $k$, out of all pairs $(a,b)$ choose the one with the lowest value of $\min(a,b)$. Label $b'=\min(a,b), a'=\max(a,b)$. Thus, $a'^2-kb'a'+b'^2-k=0$ is a quadratic in $a'$. Should there be another root, $c'$, the root would satisfy: $b'c'\leq a'c'=b'^2-k<b'^2\implies c'<b'$ Thus, $c'$ isn't a positive integer (if it were, it would contradict the minimality condition). But $c'=kb'-a'$, so $c'$ is an integer; hence, $c'\leq 0$. In addition, $(a'+1)(c'+1)=a'c'+a'+c'+1=b'^2-k+b'k+1=b'^2+(b'-1)k+1\geq 1$ so that $c'>-1$. We conclude that $c'=0$ so that $b'^2=k$.

This construction works whenever there exists a solution $(a,b)$ for a fixed $k$, hence $k$ is always a perfect square.

1988 IMO (Problems) • Resources)
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