2008 AMC 12B Problems/Problem 24

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Problem 24

Let $A_0=(0,0)$. Distinct points $A_1,A_2,\dots$ lie on the $x$-axis, and distinct points $B_1,B_2,\dots$ lie on the graph of $y=\sqrt{x}$. For every positive integer $n,\ A_{n-1}B_nA_n$ is an equilateral triangle. What is the least $n$ for which the length $A_0A_n\geq100$?

$\textbf{(A)}\ 13\qquad \textbf{(B)}\ 15\qquad \textbf{(C)}\ 17\qquad \textbf{(D)}\ 19\qquad \textbf{(E)}\ 21$

Solution 1

Let $a_n=|A_{n-1}A_n|$. We need to rewrite the recursion into something manageable. The two strange conditions, $B$'s lie on the graph of $y=\sqrt{x}$ and $A_{n-1}B_nA_n$ is an equilateral triangle, can be compacted as follows: \[\left(a_n\frac{\sqrt{3}}{2}\right)^2=\frac{a_n}{2}+a_{n-1}+a_{n-2}+\cdots+a_1\] which uses $y^2=x$, where $x$ is the height of the equilateral triangle and therefore $\frac{\sqrt{3}}{2}$ times its base.

The relation above holds for $n=k$ and for $n=k-1$ $(k>1)$, so \[\left(a_k\frac{\sqrt{3}}{2}\right)^2-\left(a_{k-1}\frac{\sqrt{3}}{2}\right)^2=\] \[=\left(\frac{a_k}{2}+a_{k-1}+a_{k-2}+\cdots+a_1\right)-\left(\frac{a_{k-1}}{2}+a_{k-2}+a_{k-3}+\cdots+a_1\right)\] Or, \[a_k-a_{k-1}=\frac23\] This implies that each segment of a successive triangle is $\frac23$ more than the last triangle. To find $a_{1}$, we merely have to plug in $k=1$ into the aforementioned recursion and we have $a_{1} - a_{0} = \frac23$. Knowing that $a_{0}$ is $0$, we can deduce that $a_{1} = 2/3$.Thus, $a_n=\frac{2n}{3}$, so $A_0A_n=a_n+a_{n-1}+\cdots+a_1=\frac{2}{3} \cdot \frac{n(n+1)}{2} = \frac{n(n+1)}{3}$. We want to find $n$ so that $n^2<300<(n+1)^2$. $n=\boxed{17}$ is our answer.

Solution 2

Consider two adjacent equilateral triangles obeying the problem statement. For each, drop an altitude to the $x$ axis and denote the resulting heights $h_n$ and $h_{n+1}$. From 30-60-90 rules, the difference between the base of these altitudes is \[\frac{h_{n+1}}{\sqrt{3}}+\frac{h_n}{\sqrt{3}} \Rightarrow \frac{h_{n+1}+h_n}{\sqrt{3}}\]

But the square root curve means that this distance is also expressible as $h_{n+1}^2-h_n^2$ (the $x$ coordinates are the squares of the heights). Setting these expressions equal and dividing throughout by $h_{n+1}+h_n$ leaves $h_{n+1}-h_n=\frac{1}{\sqrt{3}}$. So the difference in height of successive triangles is $\frac{1}{\sqrt{3}}$, meaning their bases are $2/3$ wider and wider each time. From here, one can proceed as in Solution 1 to arrive at $n=\boxed{17}$.

See Also

2008 AMC 12B (ProblemsAnswer KeyResources)
Preceded by
Problem 23
Followed by
Problem 25
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
All AMC 12 Problems and Solutions

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