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Considering the following formulae:

(i) $1+2+3+..+n = n(n+1)/2$

(ii) $1\cdot2+2\cdot3+3\cdot4+...+n(n+1) = n(n+1)(n+2)/3$

(iii) $1\cdot2\cdot3+2\cdot3\cdot4+...+n(n+1)(n+2) = n(n+1)(n+2)(n+3)/4$

Find and prove a 'closed formula' for the sum

$1\cdot2\cdot3\cdot...\cdot k + 2\cdot3\cdot4\cdot...\cdot(k+1) + ... + n(n+1)(n+2)\cdot...\cdot (k+n-1)$

generalizing the formulae above.

I have attempted to 'put' the first 3 formulae together but i am getting know where and wondered where to even start to finding a closed formula.

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Do you know how to prove by induction? – Clive Newstead Oct 23 '12 at 22:27
Yes, using the basic step n=1 and then induction step n+1 showing it follows. But don't i need to 'find' the formula before proving it using induction? – Matt Oct 23 '12 at 22:29
up vote 8 down vote accepted

The pattern looks pretty clear: you have

$$\begin{align*} &\sum_{i=1}^ni=\frac12n(n+1)\\ &\sum_{i=1}^ni(i+1)=\frac13n(n+1)(n+2)\\ &\sum_{i=1}^ni(i+1)(i+2)=\frac14n(n+1)(n+2)(n+3)\;, \end{align*}\tag{1}$$

where the righthand sides are closed formulas for the lefthand sides. Now you want


what’s the obvious extension of the pattern of $(1)$? Once you write it down, the proof will be by induction on $n$.

Added: The general result, of which the three in $(1)$ are special cases, is $$\sum_{i=1}^ni(i+1)(i+2)\dots(i+k-1)=\frac1{k+1}n(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k)\;.\tag{2}$$ For $n=1$ this is $$k!=\frac1{k+1}(k+1)!\;,$$ which is certainly true. Now suppose that $(2)$ holds. Then

$$\begin{align*}\sum_{i=1}^{n+1}i(i+1)&(i+2)\dots(i+k-1)\\ &\overset{(1)}=(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k)+\sum_{i=1}^ni(i+1)(i+2)\dots(i+k-1)\\ &\overset{(2)}=(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k)+\frac1{k+1}n(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k)\\ &\overset{(3)}=\left(1+\frac{n}{k+1}\right)(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k)\\ &=\frac{n+k+1}{k+1}(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k)\\ &=\frac1{k+1}(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k)(n+k+1)\;, \end{align*}$$

exactly what we wanted, giving us the induction step. Here $(1)$ is just separating the last term of the summation from the first $n$, $(2)$ is applying the induction hypothesis, $(3)$ is pulling out the common factor of $(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k)$, and the rest is just algebra.

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For each extra bracket (n+1) then (n+2) you're adding +1 on the bottom and then an addition bracket. im thinking the closed formula for $\sum_{k=1}^nn(n+1)(n+2)\dots(n+k-1)\;;$ would be $\frac1{k+1}(n+k-1)$ im not too sure – Matt Oct 23 '12 at 22:40
@Matt: Look at the closed forms in $(1)$ again: your $\frac1{k+1}$ is fine, but you should have $k$ more factors, not just one. – Brian M. Scott Oct 23 '12 at 22:47
Im thinking something $\frac1{k+1}n(n+k)$ but not sure how to 'repeat' brackets for more terms of $k$. so for $k=1$ it works as it gives $\frac12n(n+1)$ but then for $k=2$ all i get it $\frac13n(n+2)$ rather than $\frac13n(n+1)(n+2)$ – Matt Oct 23 '12 at 22:52
@Matt: When $k=1$ the RHS has two factors involving $n$; when $k=2$ it has three factors involving $n$; and when $k=3$ it has four factors involving $n$. In each case the smallest is $n$ and the largest is $n+k$. In the general case, then you should expect to have $k+1$ factors involving $n$, running from $n$ up through $n+k$. – Brian M. Scott Oct 23 '12 at 22:57
So it is simply $\frac1{k+1}(n+k)$ – Matt Oct 23 '12 at 23:01

If you divide both sides by $k!$ you will get binomial coefficients and you are in fact trying to prove $$\binom kk + \binom{k+1}k + \dots + \binom{k+n-1}k = \binom{k+n}{k+1}.$$ This is precisely the identity from this question.

The same argument for $k=3$ was used here.

Or you can look at your problem the other way round: If you prove this result about finite sums $$\sum_{j=1}^n j(j+1)\dots(j+k-1)= \frac{n(n+1)\dots{n+k-1}}{k+1},$$ you also get a proof of the identity about binomial coefficients.

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For a fixed non-negative $k$, let $$f(i)=\frac{1}{k+1}i(i+1)\ldots(i+k).$$ Then $$f(i)-f(i-1)=i(i+1)\ldots(i+k-1).$$ By telescoping,


and we are done.

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I asked exactly this question a couple of days ago, here:

Telescoping series of form $\sum (n+1)\cdot...\cdot(n+k)$

enter image description here

My favourite solution path so far is to start with the hockey stick identity.

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From (i), (ii) and (iii) it is reasonable to guess that your sum will be $$n(n+1)\cdot...\cdot(n+k)/(k+1)$$ Try to prove this by induction.

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