2005 AMC 12B Problems/Problem 24

Problem

All three vertices of an equilateral triangle are on the parabola $y = x^2$, and one of its sides has a slope of $2$. The $x$-coordinates of the three vertices have a sum of $m/n$, where $m$ and $n$ are relatively prime positive integers. What is the value of $m + n$? $\mathrm{(A)}\ {{{14}}}\qquad\mathrm{(B)}\ {{{15}}}\qquad\mathrm{(C)}\ {{{16}}}\qquad\mathrm{(D)}\ {{{17}}}\qquad\mathrm{(E)}\ {{{18}}}$

Solution

Let the points be $(a,a^2)$, $(b,b^2)$ and $(c,c^2)$.

[asy] import graph; real f(real x) {return x^2;} unitsize(1 cm); pair A, B, C; real a, b, c; a = (-5*sqrt(3) + 11)/11; b = (5*sqrt(3) + 11)/11; c = -19/11; A = (a,f(a)); B = (b,f(b)); C = (c,f(c)); draw(graph(f,-2,2)); draw((-2,0)--(2,0),Arrows); draw((0,-0.5)--(0,4),Arrows); draw(A--B--C--cycle); label(" $x$", (2,0), NE); label(" $y$", (0,4), NE); dot(" $A(a,a^2)$", A, S); dot(" $B(b,b^2)$", B, E); dot(" $C(c,c^2)$", C, W);[/asy]

Using the slope formula and differences of squares, we find: $a+b$ = the slope of $AB$, $b+c$ = the slope of $BC$, $a+c$ = the slope of $AC$.

So the value that we need to find is the sum of the slopes of the three sides of the triangle divided by $2$. Without loss of generality, let $AB$ be the side that has the smallest angle with the positive $x$-axis. Let $J$ be an arbitrary point with the coordinates $(1, 0)$. Translate the triangle so $A$ is at the origin. Then $tan(BOJ) = 2$. Since the slope of a line is equal to the tangent of the angle formed by the line and the positive x- axis, the answer is $\dfrac{tan(BOJ) + tan(BOJ+60) + tan(BOJ-60)}{2}$.

Using $tan(BOJ) = 2$, and basic trig identities, this simplifies to $\dfrac{3}{11}$, so the answer is $3 + 11 = \boxed{\mathrm{(A)}\ 14}$

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