A STEP question (1999 STEP II, Q4) asks: By considering the expansions in powers of $x$ of both sides of the identity $(1+x)^n (1+x)^n \equiv (1+x)^{2n}$ show that: $\sum_{s=0}^{n} \left( \nCr{n}{s} \right)^2 = \left( \nCr{2n}{n} \right)$, where $\nCr{n}{s} = \frac{n!}{s!(n-s)!}$. By considering similar identities, or otherwise, show also that: (i)

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Posted in algebra.

This post is based on work by Mark Ritchings; I know of no finer1 maths tutor in Bury. A few weeks ago, I pointed in the vague direction of a few decimal curiosities -- fractions that spit out lovely patterns in their decimal expansions. Having found one that generated the

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Posted in ask uncle colin, binomial, proof.

Dear Uncle Colin, A friend of mine told me that $1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + ... = -1$. Is he crazy, or is there something going on here? -- Somehow Enumerating Ridiculous Infinitely Extended Sum Dear SERIES, There are a couple of 'proofs' of this non-fact that

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Posted in ask uncle colin, binomial, logarithms.

Dear Uncle Colin, I noticed that $2^{\frac{1}{1,000,000}} = 1.000 000 693 147 2$ or so, pretty much exactly $\left(1 + \frac{1}{1,000,000} \ln(2)\right)$. Is that a coincidence? Nice Interesting Numbers; Jarring Acronym Dear NINJA, The easiest way to see that it's not a coincidence is to check out $3^{\frac{1}{1,000,000}} $, which

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Posted in algebra, ask uncle colin, core 1, quadratics.

Ask Uncle Colin is a chance to ask your burning, possibly embarrassing, maths questions -- and to show off your skills at coming up with clever acronyms. Send your questions to colin@flyingcoloursmaths.co.uk and Uncle Colin will do what he can. Dear Uncle Colin, How do I solve $3x^{\frac{2}{3}} + x^{\frac{1}{3}}-2

Read More →A reader asks: I need to solve $\frac ac \frac {NP}{N_0 + N} = mP$ for $N$, and I don't know where to start. Help! I had a maths teacher in the early 90s who loved nothing more than making the class groan with bad jokes. If she showed up

Read More →A student asks: How do I simplify horrible product and quotient rule expressions? The example they gave was differentiating: $f(x) = (2x - 3)^4 (x^2 + x + 1)^5$ First up, a careful bit of product rule: $u = (2x - 3)^4$, so $\diff{u}{x} = 8(2x- 3)^3$ $v = (x^2

Read More →Note: this post is only about arithmetic and quadratic sequences for GCSE. Geometric and other series, you're on your own. Quite how the Mathematical Ninja had set up his classroom so that a boulder would roll through it at precisely that moment, the student didn't have time to ponder. He

Read More →An occasional series highlighting common errors that refuse to die. “It just… won’t stay dead!” he said, as the Mathematical Zombie moved closer. “$(a+b)^2 = a^2 + b^2$”, it said. “Brains! $(a+b)^2 = a^2 + b^2$.” “But… it doesn’t!” he said. “You have to multiply out the brackets!” “$(a+b)^2 =

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Posted in algebra.

Long ago on Wrong, But Useful, my co-host @reflectivemaths pointed out the ‘coincidence’ that $7\times8 = 56$ and $12 \times 13 = 156$ - a hundred more. In fact, it works for any pair of numbers that add up to 15: $x(15-x) = 15x - x^2$, and $(x+5)(20-x) = 100

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