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A parity-preserving subset $\{\alpha_1,\cdots, \alpha_k\}$ of $\{1,\cdots, n\}$ satisfies that $\alpha_i \cong i \mod 2$ and $\alpha_i < \alpha_{i+1}\forall i.$ Let $p_n$ be the number of parity-preserving subsets of $\{1,\cdots, n\}, n\geq 0.$ Show that $\sum_{n\geq 0} a_nx^n = \dfrac{1+x}{1-x-x^2}.$

It might be possible to do this using something called a difference-partial sum bijection, but I'm not sure how to do this. I know that $a_1 = 2, a_2 = 3, a_3 = 5, a_4 = 8.$ I know there is a recurrence $a_n = a_{n-1} + a_{n-2}$ for $n\geq 2$ but I'm not sure how to show it. If I can, though, I can work backwards using the fact that $a_0 = 1$ and $a_n = a_{n-1}+a_{n-2}$ for $n\geq 2 \Rightarrow (1-x-x^2)\sum_{n\geq 0} a_nx^n = 1+x.$ I think proving the recurrence using a bijection between sets of parity-preserving subsets could work, but I'm not sure how to define this bijection.

Edit: $\emptyset$ is considered parity-preserving.

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    $\begingroup$ You should say explicitly that $\varnothing$ is counted as parity-preserving; that does not follow from the definition that you gave, but it’s required in order for your values for $a_1,a_2,a_3$, and $a_4$ to be correct. $\endgroup$ Aug 24 '20 at 4:46
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The recurrence $a_n=a_{n-1}+a_{n-2}$ can be established as follows. Let $A_n$ be the family of parity-preserving subsets of $\{1,\ldots,n\}$. We can split $A_n$ into two disjoint subsets, $A_n^-$ and $A_n^+$: $A_n^-$ contains the members of $A_n$ that do not contain $n$, and $A_n^+$ contains the members of $A_n$ that do contain $n$. A little thought shows that $A_n^-=A_{n-1}$: the parity-preserving subsets of $\{1,\ldots,n\}$ that do not contain $n$ are precisely the parity-preserving subsets of $\{1,\ldots,n-1\}$. Thus, $|A_n^-|=a_{n-1}$, and we’ll be done if we can show that $|A_n^+|=a_{n-2}$.

This is the tricky part; there is a bijection between $A_n^+$ and $A_{n-2}$, but it’s not quite obvious. Start with any member $S$ of $A_{n-2}$. If the largest element of $S$ has the same parity as $n$, let $\widehat S=S\cup\{n-1,n\}$; otherwise, let $\widehat S=S\cup\{n\}$. It’s not hard to check that in both cases $\widehat S\in A_n^+$, and it’s also not hard to check that each member of $A_n^+$ is $\widehat S$ for some $S\in A_{n-2}$, so the map $A_{n-2}\to A_n^+:S\mapsto\widehat S$ is a bijection, and therefore $|A_n^+|=a_{n-2}$, and $a_n=a_{n-1}+a_{n-2}$.

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  • $\begingroup$ @FredJefferson: You’re welcome. I’ve never seen the term difference-partial sum bijection, so I can’t help with that, I’m afraid. $\endgroup$ Aug 24 '20 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ that's okay. Do you have any tips for finding bijections in general? For most combinatorial proofs, I usually consider including and excluding certain elements (e.g. $n$ in $\{1,\cdots, n\}$). $\endgroup$ Aug 24 '20 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ @FredJefferson: I often find it helpful to look at small cases, writing out the sets explicitly, to see whether I can spot any systematic relationship; that’s actually what I did in this case. But a lot of it is just experience: I’ve been doing this for a long time, and by now I often recognize general situations or am reminded of some earlier problem. $\endgroup$ Aug 24 '20 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ I think I just figured out what the difference-partial sum bijection is. Let $P_n$ be the set of parity-preserving subsets of $\{1,\cdots, n\}$ and $D_n$ be the set of differences of $\{1,\cdots, n\},$ whose elements are the ordered pairs of the differences between consecutive elements that start with the first element of the subset. So basically, say you have a parity-preserving subset $\{\alpha_1,\cdots, \alpha_k\} := \sigma.$ Define $d(\sigma) := (\alpha_1,\alpha_2-\alpha_1,\cdots, \alpha_k - \alpha_{k-1}).$ $\endgroup$ Aug 24 '20 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ Then $d^{-1}(\alpha_1,\alpha_2,\cdots, \alpha_k) = \{\alpha_1, \alpha_1 + \alpha_2,\cdots, \alpha_1 + \alpha_2+\cdots \alpha_k\}.$ In a sense, this is intuitive; differences are used to define $d$ and the inverse is defined in terms of partial or finite sums. $\endgroup$ Aug 24 '20 at 19:20

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