Determine all sequences $a_1, a_2, a_3, . . . $ of nonnegative integers such that $a_1 \lt a_2 \lt a_3 \lt · · ·$ and $a_n$ divides $a_{n-1}+n$ for all $n\ge2$.

I know that one obvious possible sequence is $a_n=a_{n-1}+n$ but I don't know how to prove this is the only one or if there is more

from the 2018 SAMO senior round 3 http://www.samf.ac.za/content/files/QuestionPapers/s3q2018.pdf

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    $\begingroup$ How about $a_n = n-1$? $\endgroup$ Aug 9, 2019 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ The very start that $a_2|a_1 + 2$ but $a_2 > a_1$ Leaves very few choices. $a_1 < a_2 \le a_1 + 2$ so $a_2 = a_1 + 1$ or $a_2=a_1 + 2$. If $a_2 = a_1 + 1$ then $a_2|a_2 +1$ which is only possible for $a_2 = 1$. So $a_1 = 0$ and $a_2=1$. And if $a_2=a_1 + 2$ then we have $a_3|a_2 + 3$ but we have $a_3=a_2+1,a_2+2,a_2+3$ and $a_2|a_2+1$ is impossible $a_3=a_2+2$ is only possible if $a_2 = 2$ and $a_0=0$ and $a_3= a_2+3$ is only possible if $a_2=3$ and $a_1 = 1$. And so on. $\endgroup$
    – fleablood
    Aug 9, 2019 at 18:30

1 Answer 1


I will try and prove that $a_n = a_{n-1} + n$ isn't the only solution.

$a_n$ divides $a_{n-1}+n$, So we can take 'm' to be the quotient. Note that m is an integer.

This gives us $ma_n=a_{n-1}+n$

Putting n=2 we get, $ma_2 = a_1 + 2$

As $a_2>a_1$ and both of them being being integers, $a_2-a_1\ge1$

$a_2\ge a_1+1$

$a_2 +1\ge a_1+2$

$a_2 +1\ge ma_2$

$(m-1)a_2\le 1$

$m\le {a_2+1\over a_2}$, Note that $a_2\ge 1$.

Trying out any value of $a_2$, we get, $m\le 2$ and because $m$ is an integer, $m=1$ or $m=2$.

Which give us $a_n=a_{n-1}+n$ or $2{a_n}=a_{n-1}+n$

Solve the first equation by telescopy and I don't know how to solve the second equation.

For first equation you will get $a_n= a_1 -1 + {n^{2}+n \over 2}$.You can take $a_1$ to be any non-negative integer. Try solving equation 2.

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    $\begingroup$ It is not true that $a_n = a_{n-1} + n$ is the only solution, as shown in Interstellar's comment : there's also $a_n=n-1$ $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2019 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ $@EwanDelanoy$ Thanks. I spotted a small mistake in my solution and I have edited it. The case provided by interstellar will be included in $2a_n=a_{n-1}+n$ $\endgroup$
    – Jayant Jha
    Aug 10, 2019 at 8:06
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand how you got to $a_n=a_1-1+\frac{n^2+n}{2}$ please explain $\endgroup$
    – Tyrone
    Aug 10, 2019 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ We know that $a_n-a_{n-1}=n$, sigma it up from i=2 to i=n. All the terms will get cancelled and the solution given will remain. I will edit my answer later for you. $\endgroup$
    – Jayant Jha
    Aug 10, 2019 at 11:40

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