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# Elementary Properties of Cyclotomic Polynomials

Yimin Ge
Abstract
Elementary properties of cyclotomic polynomials is a topic that has become
very popular in Olympiad mathematics. The purpose of this article is to give
an introduction into the theory of cyclotomic polynomials and present some
classical examples.
1 Prerequisites
Denition 1. The Mobius Function : Z
+
{1, 0, 1} is dened as follows:
(n) =
_

_
1 if n = 1
(1)
k
if n is squarefree and k is the number of prime divisors of n
0 else.
Clearly, is multiplicative, that is, (mn) = (m)(n) for all coprime positive
integers m and n. The following result can be found in many books on multiplicative
functions.
Theorem 1. (Mobius Inversion Formula) Suppose that F, H, f : Z
+
Z
+
are
functions such that
F(n) =

d|n
f(d), H(n) =

d|n
f(d).
Then
f(n) =

d|n
(d)F
_
n
d
_
=

d|n
H
_
n
d
_
(d)
.
Denition 2. Let n be a positive integer and be an nth root of unity. Then the
least positive integer k that satises
k
= 1 is called the order of and is denoted
by ord(). Also is called a primitive nth root of unity if ord() = n.
Lemma 1. Let n and k be positive integers and be a primitive nth root of unity.
Then
k
is a primitive nth root of unity if and only if gcd(k, n) = 1.
Mathematical Reflections 2 (2008) 1
Proof. Let d = ord(
k
), then
kd
= 1 and n | kd. If gcd(k, n) = 1, then n | kd
implies n | d. But d also divides n, so d = n and
k
is primitive.
If gcd(k, n) = 1, then

k
n
gcd(k,n)
= 1,
so d < n. Thus
k
is not primitive.
Corollary 1. Let n be a positive integer. Then there exist exactly (n) primitive
nth roots of unity.
2 Cyclotomic Polynomials
2.1 Denition and Elementary Properties
Denition 3. Let n be a positive integer. Then the nth cyclotomic polynomial,
denoted as
n
, is the (monic) polynomial having exactly the primitive nth root of
unity as roots, that is,

n
(X)

n
=1
ord()=n
(X ).
Since there are exactly (n) primitive nth roots of unity, the degree of
n
is (n).
Further we present some elementary properties of cyclotomic polynomials which can
be very useful at various competitions.
Theorem 2. Let n be a positive integer. Then
X
n
1

d|n

d
(X).
Proof. The roots of X
n
1 are exactly the nth roots of unity. On the other hand,
if is an nth root of unity and d = ord(), then is a primitive dth root of unity
and thus a root of
d
(X). But d | n, so is a root of the right hand side. It follows
that the polynomials on the left and right hand side have the same roots and since
they are both monic, they are equal.
Notice that comparing degrees of the polynomials yields another proof of
n =

d|n
(d).
Lemma 2. Suppose that f(X) X
m
+ a
m1
X
m1
+ . . . + a
0
and g(X) X
n
+
b
n1
X
n1
+ . . . + b
0
are polynomials with rational coecients. If all coecients of
the polynomial f g are integers, then so are the coecients of f and g.
Mathematical Reflections 2 (2008) 2
Proof. Let M and N respectively be the least positive integers so that all coecients
of Mf(X) and Nf(X) are integers (that is, M and N are the least common multiples
of the denominators of a
0
, . . . , a
m1
and b
0
, . . . , b
n1
, respectively). Let A
i
= Ma
i
for i {0, . . . , m1}, B
j
= Nb
j
for j {0, . . . , n1} and A
m
= M, B
n
= N. Then
MNf(X)g(X) A
m
B
n
X
m+n
+ . . . + A
0
B
0
.
Since f(X)g(X) Z[X], all coecients of MNf(X)g(X) are divisible by MN.
Suppose that MN > 1 and let p be a prime divisor of MN. Then there exists
an integer i {0, . . . , m} so that p A
i
. Indeed, if p M, then p A
m
and if
p | M, then p | A
i
for all i {0, . . . , m} would imply that A
i
/p = (M/p)a
i
Z,
yielding a contradiction to the minimality of M. Similary, there exists an integer
j {0, . . . , n} such that p B
j
. Let I and J be the greatest integers among these
numbers i and j, respectively. Then the coecient of X
I+J
in MNf(X)g(X) is
[X
I+J
] = . . . + A
I+1
B
J1
+ A
I
B
J
+ A
I1
B
J+1
+ . . . A
I
B
J
+ p R
where R is an integer, so in particular, it is not divisible by p which contradicts the
fact that the coecients of MNf(X)g(X) are divisible by MN.
Corollary 2. Let n be a positive integer. Then the coecients of
n
are integers,
that is,
n
(X) Z[X].
Proof. The proof goes by induction on n. The statement is true for n = 1 since

1
(X) = X 1. Suppose that the statement is true for all k < n. Then from
Theorem 2 we obtain

n
(X) =
X
n
1

d|n,d=n

d
(X)
,
so the coecients of
n
(X) are rational and thus by Lemma 2 integers.
We can also use the Mobius Inversion to obtain a direct formula for the cyclotomic
polynomials:
Theorem 3. Let n be a positive integer. Then

n
(X) =

d|n
_
X
n
d
1
_
(d)
.
Proof. This immediately follows from the Theorems 1 and 2.
Lemma 3. Let p be a prime number and n be a positive integer. Then

pn
(X) =
_
_
_

n
(X
p
) if p | n

n
(X
p
)

n
(X)
if p n.
Mathematical Reflections 2 (2008) 3
Proof. Suppose rst that p | n. Then

pn
(X) =

d|pn
_
X
pn
d
1
_
(d)
=
_
_

d|n
_
X
pn
d
1
_
(d)
_
_
_
_
_
_

d|pn
dn
_
X
pn
d
1
_
(d)
_
_
_
_
=
n
(X
p
)

d|pn
dn
_
X
pn
d
1
_
(d)
.
However, d | pn and d n implies that p
2
| d (since p | n), so d is not squarefree and
thus (d) = 0. Therefore

d|pn
dn
_
X
pn
d
1
_
(d)
= 1
and hence
pn
(X) =
n
(X
p
).
Suppose now that p n. Then

pn
(X) =

d|pn
_
X
pn
d
1
_
(d)
=
_
_

d|n
_
X
pn
d
1
_
(d)
_
_
_
_

d|n
_
X
pn
pd
1
_
(pd)
_
_
=
_
_

d|n
_
X
pn
d
1
_
(d)
_
_
_
_

d|n
_
X
n
d
1
_
(d)
_
_
=

n
(X
p
)

n
(X)
.
From this we get the following corollary:
Corollary 3. Let p be a prime number and n, k be positive integers. Then

p
k
n
(X) =
_

n
(X
p
k
) if p | n

n
(X
p
k
)

n
(X
p
k1
)
if p n.
Proof. From Lemma 3, we have

p
k
n
(X) =
p
k1
n
(X
p
) = . . . =
pn
(X
p
k1
) =
_

n
(X
p
k
) if p | n

n
(X
p
k
)

n
(X
p
k1
)
if p n.
Mathematical Reflections 2 (2008) 4
Lemma 4. Let p be a prime number. Suppose that the polynomial X
n
1 has a
double root modulo p, that is, there exists an integer a and a polynomial f(X)
Z[X] such that
X
n
1 (X a)
2
f(X) (mod p).
Then p | n.
Proof.
1
Clearly, p a. Substituting y = X a, we get
(y + a)
n
1 y
2
f(y + a) (mod p).
Comparing coecients, we see that the coecient of y on the right hand side is
0. By the binomial theorem, the coecient of y on the left hand side is na
n1
. It
follows that na
n1
0 (mod p). But p a, so p | n.
Corollary 4. Let n be a positive integer, d < n a divisor of n integer. Suppose
that p divides
n
(x
0
) and
d
(x
0
), where x
0
Z . Then p | n.
Proof. By Theorem 2,
x
n
1 =

t|n

t
(x),
so x
n
1 is divisible by
n
(x)
d
(x). It follows that the polynomial X
n
1 has a
double root at x
0
modulo p, so by Lemma 4, p | n.
Theorem 4.
Let n be a positive integer and x be any integer. Then every prime divisor p of

n
(x) either satises p 1 (mod n) or p | n.
Proof. Let p be a prime divisor of
n
(x). Note that p x, because p |
n
(x) | x
n
1.
Let k = ord
p
(x). Since p | x
n
1, we have x
n
1 (mod p), so k | n. Hence k = n
or k < n.
Case 1: k = n. By Fermats little theorem, p | x
p1
1 since p x and p is prime.
But then k|(p 1), and since k = n, n|(p 1) so p 1 (mod n).
Case 2: k < n. Since
0 x
k
1 =

d|k

d
(x) (mod p),
there exists a divisor d of k so that p |
d
(x). Observe that d k, because d | k. But
k < n, so d < n. Furthermore d is a divisor of n, as d | k | n. Now let us consider
1
We can also prove Lemma 4 with calculus modulo p by introducing the familiar rules for
computing the derivative (and showing that they are consistent). The fact that a double root of a
function is a root of its derivative remains invariant modulo p. The derivative of X
n
1 is nX
n1
,
so na
n1
0 (mod p). But p a, so p | n.
Mathematical Reflections 2 (2008) 5
the decomposition of x
n
1 into cyclotomic polynomials. We have two divisors of n
(which are d and n) that divide n. So we have two cyclotomic polynomials in that
factorization that have p as a factor. Thus it follows from Corollary 4 that p | n.
Corollary 5. Let p be a prime number and x be an integer. Then every prime
divisor q of 1 + x + . . . + x
p1
either satises q 1 (mod p) or q = p.
Proof. Let q be a prime divisor of 1 + x + . . . + x
p1
. Since
1 + x + . . . + x
p1
=
x
p
1
x 1
=
x
p
1

1
(x)
,
we have 1 +x +. . . +x
p1
=
p
(x). It follows from Theorem 4 that q 1 (mod p)
or q | p, that is, q = p.
The following lemma is quite well known:
Lemma 5. Let a and b be positive integers and x be an integer. Then
gcd(x
a
1, x
b
1) = |x
gcd(a,b)
1|.
Theorem 5. Let a and b be positive integers. Suppose that x is an integer so that
gcd(
a
(x),
b
(x)) > 1. Then
a
b
= p
k
for some prime number p and integer k.
Proof. Let p be a common prime divisor of
a
(x) and
b
(x). We prove that
a
b
must
be a power of p. Suppose that a = p

A and b = p

## B, where , 0 are integers

and A and B are positive integers not divisible by p. We prove that A = B. Since
p |
a
(x) | x
a
1, we have p x.
We rst show that p |
A
(x). This is clear if = 0. Otherwise, if > 1, it follows
from Corollary 3 that
0
a
(x) =

A
(x
p

A
(x
p
1
)
(mod p),
so
A
(x
p

## ) 0 (mod p). But x

p

x x
p

1
and since p

1 is divisible by p 1,
it follows from Eulers theorem that x
p

1
1 (mod p) and thus, x
p

x (mod p).
Hence
0
A
(x
p

)
A
(x) (mod p)
and similarly, p |
B
(x).
Suppose that A > B. Let t = gcd(A, B), then t < A. We know that p |
A
(x) |
x
A
1 and p |
B
(x) | x
B
1, so p | gcd(x
A
1, x
B
1). But from Lemma 5, it
follows that
gcd(x
A
1, x
B
1) = |x
t
1|,
Mathematical Reflections 2 (2008) 6
so p | x
t
1. However,
0 x
t
1 =

d|t

d
(x) (mod p),
thus there exists a divisor d of t such that p |
d
(x). But d | t | A, d < A and
p |
A
(x). By Corollary 4, we have p | A, a contradiction since we assumed that
p A.
2.2 Applications
A common application of cyclotomic polynomials is the proof of a special case of
Dirichlets Theorem.
Theorem 6. Let n be a positive integer. Then there exist innitely many prime
numbers p with p 1 (mod n).
Proof. Suppose that there exist only nitely many prime numbers p with p 1
(mod n). Let T be the product of these primes and all primes diving n. Clearly
T > 1. Let k be a suciently large positive integer such that
n
(T
k
) > 1 (since

n
is a nonconstant monic polynomial, such k exists) and let q be a prime divisor
of
n
(T
k
). Because q divides T
kn
1, q does not divide T, so q 1 (mod n) and
q n, a contradiction to Theorem 4.
Another nice application is a generalisation of a problem from the IMO Shortlist
2002:
Problem 1. Let p
1
, p
2
, . . . , p
n
be distinct primes greater than 3. Prove that
2
p
1
p
2
...pn
+ 1 has at least 4
n
divisors.
The ocial solution comments that using cyclotomic polynomials, it can be proved
that 2
p
1
p
2
...pn
+1 has at least 2
2
n1
divisors (which is much more than 4
n
when n is
large). We are going to prove this generalisation now.
Problem 2. Let p
1
, p
2
, . . . , p
n
be distinct primes greater than 3. Prove that
2
p
1
p
2
...pn
+ 1 has at least 2
2
n1
divisors.
Solution. It is sucient to prove that 2
p
1
...pn
+1 has at least 2
n1
pairwise coprime
divisors and hence at least 2
n1
distinct prime divisors. We have
(2
p
1
...pn
1) (2
p
1
...pn
+ 1) = 2
2p
1
...pn
1 =

d|2p
1
...pn

d
(2)
=
_
_

d|p
1
...pn

d
(2)
_
_
_
_

d|p
1
...pn

2d
(2)
_
_
= (2
p
1
...pn
1)
_
_

d|p
1
...pn

2d
(2)
_
_
Mathematical Reflections 2 (2008) 7
and hence
2
p
1
...pn
+ 1 =

d|p
1
...pn

2d
(2).
From Theorem 5, we know that if
a
(2) and
b
(2) are not coprime, then a/b must
be a prime power. We thus have to prove that there exists a set of 2
n1
divisors
of p
1
. . . p
n
so that no two of them dier by exactly one prime number. But this
is clear, because we can take the divisors of p
1
. . . p
n
which have an even number
of prime divisors and since there are equally many divisors having an even number
of prime divisors and divisors having an odd number of prime divisors, there exist
exactly 2
n1
of them.
Problem 3. Find all integer solutions of the equation
x
7
1
x 1
= y
5
1.
Solution. The equation is equivalent to
1 + x + . . . + x
6
= (y 1)(1 + y + . . . + y
4
).
We know from Corollary 5 that every prime divisor p of 1 + x + . . . + x
6
either
satises p = 7 or p 1 (mod 7). This implies that every divisor of 1 +x +. . . +x
6
is either divisible by 7 or congruent to 1 modulo 7. Thus, (y 1) 0 (mod 7) or
(y 1) 1 (mod 7), that is, y 1 (mod 7) or y 2 (mod 7). If y 1 (mod 7)
then 1 +y +. . . +y
4
5 0, 1 (mod 7), a contradiction and if y 2 (mod 7) then
1 +y +. . . +y
4
31 3 0, 1 (mod 7), also a contradiction. Hence, this equation
has no integer solutions.
References
 Yves Gallot, Cyclotomic Polynomials and Prime Numbers,
http://perso.orange.fr/yves.gallot/papers/cyclotomic.pdf
 Titu Andreescu, Dorin Andrica, Zuming Feng, 104 Number Theory Problems:
From the Training of the USA IMO Team, Birkhauser, 2007, pp. 36-38.
 Titu Andreescu, Dorin Andrica, Complex Numbers from A to ...Z, Birkhauser,
2006, pp.45-51.
 Mathlinks, Cyclotomic Property,
http://www.mathlinks.ro/Forum/viewtopic.php?t=126566
Author: Yimin Ge, Vienna, Austria
Mathematical Reflections 2 (2008) 8