Prove that for every $n\geq m \geq1$ natural numbers, the following number is an integer:

$${\gcd(n,m)\over n}\cdot{n\choose m}$$

Where $\gcd$ is the greatest common divisor.

I tried to make it simpler by cancelling the $n$ from the left side, and making it $(n-1)!$ on the right: $\gcd(n, m) \cdot \frac{(n-1)!}{m!(n-m)!}$, but can't really go further.

This was problem B-2 on the 2000 Putnam exam.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Try to use this: "Bézout's identity (also called Bézout's lemma) is a theorem in the elementary theory of numbers: let a and b be nonzero integers and let d be their greatest common divisor. Then there exist integers x and y such that ax+by=d" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%A9zout%27s_identity $\endgroup$ – marvinthemartian Feb 25 '15 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ I tried considering group actions but it didn't pan out. In particular, $\Bbb Z/n\Bbb Z$ acts on $\{1,2,\cdots,n\}$ which induces an action on $\binom{n}{m}$ (the collection of $m$-subsets of $\{1,\cdots,n\}$). If the subgroup $\langle\bar{m}\rangle$ acts freely on $\binom{n}{m}$ then the claim would follow from orbit-stabilizer. Unfortunately the action needn't be free - the smallest counterexample is $m=2$, $n=4$. $\endgroup$ – whacka Feb 26 '15 at 2:23

Write $nx+my=\gcd(n,m)$, with $x,y\in\mathbb{Z}$



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    $\begingroup$ Wow, I am really impressed! Very nice proof. $\endgroup$ – Peter Feb 25 '15 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ Next question: What's the combinatorial interpretation of the expression that is simplified here? ${}\qquad{}$ $\endgroup$ – Michael Hardy Feb 25 '15 at 19:30

Here is a conceptual way to derive this. We will show that it is a special case of the well-known fact that if a fraction $q\,$ can be written with denominators $\,n\,$ and $\,m,\,$ then it can also be written with denominator $\,\gcd(n,m),\,$ i.e. $\, nq,\,mq\in\Bbb Z\,\Rightarrow\, (n,m)q\in\Bbb Z.\,$ Applied to $\ \color{#c00}q = \frac{1}{n}{n\choose m}\, $

$$n\color{#c00}q = {n\choose m}^{\vphantom{|^{|^|}}}\in\Bbb Z,\,\ m\color{#c00}q= {n\!-\!1\choose m\!-\!1}\in\Bbb Z\,\ \Rightarrow\ (n,m)q = \dfrac{(n,m)}n{{{n\choose m}}}\in \Bbb Z\quad\qquad$$

Remark $\ $ Below are a few proofs of the Lemma on fractions. Recall $\,(x,y):=\gcd(x,y)$

$(1)\ $ Recall that a fraction can be written with denominator $\,n\,$ iff its least denominator $\,d\mid n.\,$ Therefore $\,m,n\,$ are denoms $\iff d\mid m,n\iff d\mid (m,n)\iff (m,n)\:$ is a denom.

$(2)\ \ \dfrac{mc}d,\dfrac{nc}d\in\Bbb Z\iff d\mid mc,nc\iff d\mid (mc,nc)=(m,n)c\iff\! \dfrac{(m,n)c}d\in\Bbb Z$

$(3)\ \ \dfrac{mc}d, \dfrac{nc}d\in\Bbb Z\,\Rightarrow \dfrac{jmc}d,\, \dfrac{knc}d\in\Bbb Z\,\Rightarrow\,\dfrac{(jm\!+\!kn)c}d\,\overset{\large \color{#c00}{\exists\, j,k}_{\phantom{1^{1^{1}}\!\!\!\!\!}}} = \dfrac{(m,n)c}d\in\Bbb Z\ $ by $\rm\color{#c00}{Bezout}$

  • $\begingroup$ See also this answer. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Feb 25 '15 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ Nice, that's a bit harder (in my opinion) to come up with, but very elegant. $\endgroup$ – user2520938 Feb 25 '15 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @user2520938 See the edit which emphasizes the innate conceptual viewpoint. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Feb 25 '15 at 21:05

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