Fall 2014 USA OMO Qn 9. Let . How many zeros are at the end of the decimal representation of ?
To count the number of zeros at the end of , we need to find out the highest power of 2 that divides and the highest power of 5 that divides , then the number of zeros that the decimal representation of has is the lower of the two. Concretely, if for some integer such that , then the number of zeros in ‘s decimal representation is .
The short explanation above suggests that it would be a good idea to find the prime factorisation of . The key to the solution is realising that each succeeding term is a multiple of the previous one, hence all succeeding terms are a multiple of the first one. That is, we can write as
At this point, you might notice that for the second factor (the one in square brackets), all its terms except the 1 in front are divisible by 5. This means that the second factor will not be “contributing” any factors of 5 to the prime factorisation of . To simply the line above, we can write
for some integer . While factor might contribute some factors of 2 to the prime factorisation of , it won’t contribute any more factors of 5. It should also be clear that the factor has more factors of 2 than factors of 5. Hence,
There is a well-known formula that the highest power of a prime which divides is
Hence, number of ‘0’s at the end of is
The answer is 501.