Category Archives: combinatorics

Fermat’s Little Theorem: proof by necklaces

It’s time for our second proof of Fermat’s Little Theorem, this time using a proof by necklaces. As you know, proof by necklaces is a very standard technique for… wait, what do you mean, you’ve never heard of proof by … Continue reading

Posted in combinatorics, number theory, primes, proof | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Möbius inversion

In my last post we saw that , that is, the Möbius function is the inverse of with respect to Dirichlet convolution. This directly leads to an interesting principle called Möbius inversion. Möbius inversion. Suppose is defined for as the … Continue reading

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Dirichlet convolution and the Möbius function

Recall from last time that the Dirichlet convolution of two functions and is written and defined by: where the sum is taken over all possible factorizations of into a product of positive integers. Last time we saw that is commutative … Continue reading

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Dirichlet convolution

Let and be two functions defined on the positive integers. Then the Dirichlet convolution of and , written , is another function on the positive integers, defined as follows: The sum is taken over all possible factorizations of into a … Continue reading

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The Möbius function proof, part 2 (the subset parity lemma)

Continuing from my previous post, we are in the middle of proving that satisfies the same equation as , that is, and that therefore for all , that is, is the sum of all the th primitive roots of unity. … Continue reading

Posted in arithmetic, combinatorics, complex numbers, primes, proof | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The birthday candle problem: solution

Recall the birthday candle problem I wrote about in a previous post: A birthday cake has lit candles. At each step you pick a number uniformly at random and blow out candles. If any candles remain lit, the process repeats … Continue reading

Posted in combinatorics, probability, solutions | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The birthday candle problem

After a 1.5-month epic journey1, I am finally settling into my new position at Hendrix College. Here’s a fun problem I just heard from my new colleage Mark Goadrich: A birthday cake has lit candles. At each step you pick … Continue reading

Posted in challenges, combinatorics, probability | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments