1991 AIME Problems/Problem 13

Revision as of 20:38, 24 March 2009 by Math154 (talk | contribs) (Solution)


A drawer contains a mixture of red socks and blue socks, at most $1991$ in all. It so happens that, when two socks are selected randomly without replacement, there is a probability of exactly $\frac{1}{2}$ that both are red or both are blue. What is the largest possible number of red socks in the drawer that is consistent with this data?


Solution 1

Let $r$ and $b$ denote the number of red and blue socks, respectively. Also, let $t=r+b$. The probability $P$ that when two socks are drawn randomly, without replacement, both are red or both are blue is given by


Solving the resulting quadratic equation $r^{2}-rt+t(t-1)/4=0$, for $r$ in terms of $t$, one obtains that

\[r=\frac{t\pm\sqrt{t}}{2}\, .\]

Now, since $r$ and $t$ are positive integers, it must be the case that $t=n^{2}$, with $n\in\mathbb{N}$. Hence, $r=n(n\pm 1)/2$ would correspond to the general solution. For the present case $t\leq 1991$, and so one easily finds that $n=44$ is the largest possible integer satisfying the problem conditions.

In summary, the solution is that the maximum number of red socks is $r=\boxed{990}$.

Solution 2

Let $r$ and $b$ denote the number of red and blue socks such that $r+b\le1991$. Then by complementary counting, the number of ways to get a red and a blue sock must be equal to $1-\frac12=\frac12=\frac{2rb}{(r+b)(r+b-1)}\implies4rb=(r+b)(r+b-1)$ $=(r+b)^2-(r+b)\implies r^2+2rb+b^2-r-b=4rb\implies r^2-2rb+b^2$ $=(r-b)^2=r+b$, so $r+b$ must be a perfect square $k^2$. Clearly, $r=\frac{k^2+k}2$, so the larger $k$, the larger $r$: $k^2=44^2$ is the largest perfect square below $1991$, and our answer is $\frac{44^2+44}2=\frac12\cdot44(44+1)=22\cdot45=11\cdot90=\boxed{990}$.

See also

1991 AIME (ProblemsAnswer KeyResources)
Preceded by
Problem 12
Followed by
Problem 14
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
All AIME Problems and Solutions
Invalid username
Login to AoPS