This should be extremely easy, but I'm having trouble with something. I'm following C.D. Olds "Continued Fractions" book, pages 43/44.

Consider the equation $8x+5y=81$. We're searching for integer solutions. We want to find those solutions using Euler's method, that is: let's consider the variable with the smallest coefficient, $y$, and solve for it: $y = \frac{81-8x}{5}$. Let's consider the biggest multiples of 5 contained in 81 and 8: $81=5 \cdot 16+1$ and $8=5\cdot 1 +3$. Therefore, $y = 16 - x + \frac{1-3x}{5}= 16 - x + t$, with $t = \frac{1-3x}{5}$. So, $3x+5t=1$. We have obtained a new equation, where the coefficients are now smaller than those of the original equation. As $x$ and $y$ have to be integers, $t$ has to be an integer.

I'm fine with all that. Now, we should replicate this procedure again. Here's what the author does:

$x=\frac{1-5t}{3}=\frac{1-(2 \cdot 3-1)t}{3}=-2t+\frac{t+1}{3}=-2t+u$. Since $x$ and $t$ are integers, $u$ has to be an integer. We have $x=2-5u$ and $y=8u+13$. By inserting here every possible integer value of $u$, we find the infinite solutions to our equation.

Why do we perform the substitution $5=2 \cdot 3 - 1$ rather than $5=3 \cdot 1 +2$? Shouldn't the second one the one we should be doing, in analogy with the first equation?

Moreover, if we perform the substitution $5= 3\cdot 1 + 2$, we get $x=\frac{1-5t}{3}=\frac{1-(3 \cdot 1+2)t}{3}=-t+\frac{1-2t}{3}=-t+u$, with $u = \frac{1-2t}{3}$. By the same reasoning as before, $u$ has to be an integer. Therefore, $x=\frac{1-5t}{3}=\frac{1-5(\frac{1-3u}{2})}{3}=\frac{-1+5u}{2}$. Which can't be correct: for every integer value of $u$ I should get an integer solution, by setting $u=0$ that's not the case. What's wrong?

EDIT: nothing's wrong. I simply had to take all the integer values of $u$ such that $x$ and $y$ are integers. $u=0$ does not satisfy this requirement. All odd values of $u$ do.


I would write $$5y=80-10x+1+2x$$ so $$y=16-2x+\frac{1+2x}{5}$$ with $$\frac{1+2x}{5}=t$$ we get $$x=3t-1+\frac{1-t}{2}$$ Can you finish?

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes. $u = \frac{1-t}{2}$, so $t = 1-2u$, $x=2-5u$ and $y=13+8u$, by substituting. What I don't get is how I choose the "form" in which to write the equation. Why should I write $y$ and $x$ the way you did, and not, for example, $x=\frac{5t-1}{2}$? What's wrong with the example I provided in my original post? $\endgroup$ – D. Joe Dec 24 '18 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ Problem solved. See my edit. Thank you anyway. $\endgroup$ – D. Joe Dec 24 '18 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @D.Joe here's another method I personally prefer over Euler's. $8x+5y=81$, where $81$ ends in $1$. Note that for some $z$, it follows $81+5z$ will either end in digit $1$ or $6$. Note that any multiple of $8$ must have an even last digit since $8$ is a power of $2$. Therefore, $1$ isn't the last digit of a multiple of $8$, but $6$ is. Intuitively, $8(5k+2)$ has $6$ as a last digit for all multiples of $k$. Now $81-8\times 2 = 65=13\times 5$. Therefore: $$\begin{align}x&=5k+2 \\ y&=13-8k\end{align}$$ This is the same as the result in your question, given $k=-u$. This method is not rigorous but. $\endgroup$ – Mr Pie May 18 at 2:34

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