MHB POTW Director
- Feb 14, 2012
Find distinct positive integers \(\displaystyle a,\;b,\) and \(\displaystyle c\) such that \(\displaystyle a+b+c,\;ab+bc+ac,\;abc\) forms an arithmetic progression.
"Write $\sum a$ for $a+b+c$ and $\sum bc$ for $bc+ca+ab$. Then $\sum a,\ \sum bc$ and $abc$ form an arithmetic progression, and therefore $\sum a - 2\sum bc + abc = 0.$ Hence $$\textstyle (a-2)(b-2)(c-2) = abc - 2\sum bc + 4 \sum a - 8 = 3\sum a - 8.$$
That equation tells you quite a lot. For a start, the product $(a-2)(b-2)(c-2)$ is congruent to $1\pmod3$, which means that either $a$, $b$ and $c$ are all multiples of $3$, or one of them is a multiple of $3$ and the other two are congruent to $1\pmod3$. Next, the product of the three numbers $a-2$, $b-2$, $c-2$ is only about three times their sum, so at least one of them must be rather small. You can easily rule out the possibility that the smallest of the numbers $a,\ b,\ c$ is $1$. So that makes it seem almost sure to be $3$. If you then put $a=3$ in the displayed equation",