Factoring

Revision as of 14:14, 26 June 2006 by Inscrutableroot (talk | contribs) (proofreading)

Note to readers and editers: Please fix up this page by adding in material from Joe's awesome factoring page.


Why Factor

Factoring equations is an essential part of problem solving. Applying number theory to products yields many results.

There are many ways to factor.

Differences and Sums of Powers

$a^2-b^2=(a+b)(a-b)$

$a^3-b^3=(a-b)(a^2+ab+b^2)$

Using the formula for the sum of a geometric sequence, it's easy to derive the more general formula:

$a^n-b^n=(a-b)(a^{n-1}+ba^{n-2} + \cdots + b^{n-2}a + b^{n-1})$

Take note of the specific case where n is odd:

$a^n+b^n=(a+b)(a^{n-1} - ba^{n-2} + b^2a^{n-3} - b^3a^{n-4} + \cdots + b^{n-1})$

This also leads to the formula for the sum of cubes,

$a^3+b^3=(a+b)(a^2-ab+b^2)$


Vieta's/Newton Factorizations

These factorizations are useful for problems that could otherwise be solved by Newton sums or problems that give a polynomial and ask a question about the roots. Combined with Vieta's formulas, these are excellent factorizations that show up everywhere.

  • $\displaystyle (a+b+c)^2=a^2+b^2+c^2+2(ab+bc+ca)$
  • $\displaystyle (a+b+c)^3=a^3+b^3+c^3+3(a+b)(b+c)(c+a)$
  • $\displaystyle (a+b+c)^5=a^5+b^5+c^5+5(a+b)(b+c)(c+a)(a^2+b^2+c^2+ab+bc+ca)$

Other Useful Factorizations

Practice Problems

  • Prove that $n^2 + 3n + 5$ is never divisible by 121 for any positive integer ${n}$.
  • Prove that $2222^{5555} + 5555^{2222}$ is divisible by 7. - USSR Problem Book
  • Factor $(x-y)^3 + (y-z)^3 + (z-x)^3$.

Other Resources

Invalid username
Login to AoPS