The answer to the following question would give an alternative solution to an old olympiad question if it is true.

Prove that there is no (constant) integer $c$ such that

$$1!+2!+\dots + q! \equiv c \bmod q \text{ for all $q \in \mathbb N^\ast$.}$$

($\mathbb N^\ast = \mathbb N \setminus \{0\}$)

  • $\begingroup$ $(1!+2!+\dots + q!) \bmod q$ is definitely not constant. See oeis/A067462. But that does not really answer the question. $\endgroup$ – lhf Nov 29 '16 at 12:35
  • $\begingroup$ Well, yes, there is no good reason for $c$ to exist, but to me it seems quite hard to prove that it does not exist. $\endgroup$ – Tara Nov 29 '16 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ It seems that the Chinese Remainder Theorem (together with a little bit of work to show that the system of congruences is consistent) implies that it is not possible to show that $c$ does not exist by working out what the value of $c$ is modulo $q$ for some finite set of values of $q$. (i.e. For any finite set of values for $q$, there is a $c$ that works.) This of course does not mean that there is a $c$ that works for all $q$, but we would need some other way of showing that. $\endgroup$ – Dylan Dec 4 '16 at 7:52
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ what does the $\ast$ mean in $\mathbb N^\ast$ ? $\endgroup$ – G Cab Mar 2 '17 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ This usually means that $0$ is excluded. $\endgroup$ – Phira Mar 3 '17 at 23:36

Let $K(q)=\sum_{k=1}^{q-1} k!$.Since $q!\equiv0\pmod{q}$, thus $c$ is an integer such that for every postive integer $q$, we have $K(q)\equiv c\pmod q$. for instance, we have $K(q!)\equiv c\pmod{q!}$. But by definition of $K$, we know that $K(q!)\equiv K(q)\pmod{q!}$ which leads to $K(q)\equiv c\pmod{q!}$. Hence there is a sequence of integers like $(k_q)_{q\in\mathbb Z^+}$ such that $c=k_q\cdot q!+K(q)$. Now for every positive integer $q$:

$$0=c-c=k_{q+1}\cdot (q+1)!+K(q+1)-k_q\cdot q!-K(q)=\left((q+1)k_{q+1}-k_q+1\right)q!$$ $$\therefore\quad k_{q+1}=\dfrac{k_q-1}{q+1}$$

Now using induction we show that for every natural number $n$, we must have $|k_q|\ge q^n$. For the base case, we note that if $k_q=0$, then $k_{q+1}$ can't be an integer, so $|k_q|\ge1=q^0$. For the induction step, we have:

$$\dfrac{|k_q|+1}{q+1}\ge\dfrac{|k_q-1|}{q+1}=|k_{q+1}|\ge (q+1)^n$$ $$\therefore\quad|k_q|\ge(q+1)^{n+1}-1\ge q^{n+1}$$

But this leads to an obvious contradiction. So $c$ doesn't exist.


I found this question very interesting, since it's easy to prove that $c$ is not constant by example meanings, however, the relevant part is to give the proof mathematically, which I think I have found.

We assume that for $q=k$ ; $q=k+1$ and that $c$ is constant, so the following relations should hold:

$0 \equiv \sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - c \pmod k$

$0 \equiv \sum_{i=1}^{k+1}i! - c \pmod{k+1}$

Let's put all together:

$c=\sum_{i=1}^{k}i! -kp$

$0 \equiv \sum_{i=1}^{k+1}i! - \sum_{i=1}^{k}i! -kp \pmod{k+1}$

$0 \equiv (k+1)! + \sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - \sum_{i=1}^{k}i! -kp \pmod{k+1}$

$0 \equiv (k+1)! -kp \pmod{k+1}$

$p=\sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - c$

$0 \equiv (k+1)! -k(\frac{\sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - c}{k}) \pmod{k+1}$

$0 \equiv (k+1)! - \sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - c \pmod{k+1}$ ($*$)

Since $\sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - c$ is multiple of $k$ then for the latter ($*$) to be true we need that:

$GCD(k+1, \sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - c) \neq 1$

Maybe sounds a bit confusing at the first time, but makes sense. This attempt just tell us for $c$ to be constant the sum of the previous factorials minus $c$ has to be multiple of the current modulus.

For example, take k=5

$GCD(k+1, \sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - c) = GCD(6, 153 - 3) = GCD(6,150) = 6$ so both $k$ and $k+1$ will yield same $c$

but for k=6

$GCD(k+1, \sum_{i=1}^{k}i! - c) = GCD(7, 873 - 3) = GCD(7,870) = 1$ thus $c$ in $k$ and $c$ in $k+1$ yield $3$ and $5$ respectively.

Take into account that I have put some effort elaborating this answer, maybe there exists other simple proof, but I least I try to throw some light to the question.

  • $\begingroup$ You don't need that $c=3$ for $q=6$, and $c=5$ for $q=7$. You just need that $c \equiv 3 \pmod 6$ and $c \equiv 5 \pmod 7$. Which means that $c=33$ works for both $6$ and for $7$, for example. $\endgroup$ – Dylan Dec 4 '16 at 7:49

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