Let (1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + ... + 1/n) = p_{n}/q_{n}, where p_{n} and q_{n} are relatively prime positive integers. For which n is q_{n} not divisible by 5?

**Solution**

Answer: n = 1 - 4, 20 - 24, 100 - 104, and 120 - 124.

*Hard. I found this the trickiest problem in the paper. The key is to show that p _{n} is not divisible by 5 for n = 25, ... , 124. *

Let S(n) = 1 + 1/2 + 1/3 + ... + 1/n, and let S'(n) be the same sum excluding terms 1/m with m a multiple of 5. For x non-integral it is convenient to use S(x) to mean S([x]). We find that S(1) = 1/1, S(2) = 3/2, S(3) = 11/6, S(4) = 25/12.

Let N, N' etc denote fractions p/q where 5 does not divide q, let F, F' etc denote fractions p/q where 5 divides q, but not p, and let X, X' etc denote fractions p/q where 5 does not divide p or q. For example, we obviously have S'(n) = N. Notice that 1/(5r+1) + 1/(5r+2) + 1/(5r+3) + 1/(5r+4) = (1/(5r+1) + 1/(5r+4) ) + (1/(5r+2) + 1/(5r+3) ) = (10r+5)(1/(5r'+4) + 1/(5r''+6) ) = 25 N. So for n = 4 or 5 (mod 5) we have 1/5 S'(n) = 5N.

For n = 5, ... , 19, S(n) = S'(n) + 1/5 S(n/5) = N + 1/5 X = F.

For n = 20, ... ,24, S(n) = S'(n) + 1/5 25/12 = N + N' = N''.

We need also that S(21) = S'(20) + 1/21 + 5/12 = 5N + 1/21 + 5N' = X, and similarly that S(22) = 5N + 1/21 + 1/22 = X, S(23) = 5N + 1/21 + 1/22 + 1/23 = X.

For n = 25, ... , 99, S(n) = S'(n) + 1/5 S'(n/5) + 1/25 S(n/25) = N + 1/5 N' + 1/25 X = F.

For n = 100, ... , 104, S(n) = S'(n) + 1/5 S'(20) + 1/25 25/12 = N + 5N' + 1/12 = N.

But S'(100) = 5N, so we have the stronger result that S(100) = 5N'' + 1/12 = X. Similarly for S'(104). S(101) = S(100) + 1/101 = 5N'' + 1/12 + 1/101 = X (just check that the numerator of 1/12 + 1/101 is not a multiple of 5) and, similarly, S(102) = X, S(103) = X.

For n = 105, ... , 119, S(n) = S'(n) + 1/5 S'(n/5) + 1/12 = N + 1/5 X + 1/12 = F (since S'(n/5) = S'(21) or S'(22) or S'(23) = X).

For n = 120, ... , 124, S(n) = S'(n) + 1/5 S'(24) + 1/12 = N + 5N' + 1/12 = N.

Exactly as for 100-104, we also have the stronger result that S(n) = X.

We have established that S(n) has the denominator divisible by 5 for n = 1-4, 20-24, 100-104 and 120-124. It remains to show that the denominator is not divisible by 5 for n ≥ 125.

But we have also established that the numerator is not divisible by 5 for 25 ≤ n ≤ 124. So let n ≥ 125, and let h be the highest power of 5 not exceeding n, so h ≥ 3. We now divide S(n) into A, the sum of terms which are multiples of 5^{h-2} and B, the sum of the remaining terms. Clearly B = N/5^{h-3}. But A = S(r)/5^{h-2}, where 25 ≤ r ≤ 124. But the numerator of S(r) is not divisible by 5, so the denominator of A is divisible by at least 5^{h-2} and hence S(n) = A + B has denominator (in lowest terms) divisible by at least 5^{h-2} and hence by 5.

© John Scholes

jscholes@kalva.demon.co.uk

12 Dec 1998