# combinatorial proof of Zeckendorf’s theorem

###### Theorem 1.

Every nonnegative integer has a unique representation as a sum of nonconsecutive Fibonacci numbers  , where we do not use $F_{1}$ and instead use

 $F_{2}=1,F_{3}=2,F_{4}=3,F_{5}=5,F_{6}=8,\dots$

(Ignoring $F_{1}$ is necessary only to prevent the trivial counterexamples such as $6=F_{5}+F_{2}=F_{5}+F_{1}$).

###### Proof.

Given a sum $\sum_{i=2}^{n}Z_{i}F_{i}$ where $Z_{i}\in\{0,1\}$, we write that as a sequence  of binary digits; thus $F_{4}+F_{2}$ is written as $101$, while $F_{7}+F_{5}+F_{2}$ is $101001$. Arrange such sequences with no two consecutive $1$’s (i.e. those sequences corresponding to sums of nonconsecutive Fibonacci numbers) in increasing lexicographic order  starting from $0$, and assign each one a rank corresponding to its order in the list:

 $\begin{array}[]{c c c c c | c}5&4&3&2&1&rank\\ \hline&&&&0&0\\ &&&&1&1\\ &&&1&0&2\\ &&1&0&0&3\\ &&1&0&1&4\\ &1&0&0&0&5\\ &1&0&0&1&6\\ &1&0&1&0&7\\ 1&0&0&0&0&8\end{array}$

Note that the rank is not the value of the string as a binary string. In fact, it is the sum of the string when interpreted as a sum of Fibonacci numbers, but we do not assume this; as far as we know up to this point, all the rank is is the row number in this table.

We say that such a sequence has length $n$ if the leftmost $1$ is in position $n$; thus $100$ has length $3$.

Claim that the number of representations with length $\leq n$ is $F_{n+2}$. We prove this by induction  on $n$; note that it is true for $n=0$ and for $n=1$. Now, given any representation of length $\leq n$, it either has length $\leq n-1$ or it has length exactly $n$. The number of representations of length $\leq n-1$ is, by induction, $F_{n+1}$. To compute the number of representations of length exactly $n$, note that any such representation starts with $10$ since we cannot have two consecutive $1$’s. The digits after the $10$ are arbitrary as long as there are not two consecutive $1$’s, so that the number of such representations is precisely the number of representations of length $\leq n-2$, or $F_{n}$. Thus the number of representations of length $\leq n$ is $F_{n+1}+F_{n}=F_{n+2}$. This proves the claim.

We will now prove the theorem by counting the number of rows preceding row $n$ in two different ways. First, the number of such rows is obviously $n$ (since we just numbered the row consecutively). We now count the number of predecessors by looking at the corresponding sequence. Given a sequence $s$, each of its predecessors $p$ first differs from it in some position $k$; since $s>p$ lexicographically, $s$ must be $1$ in that position while $p$ is zero. Since $p$ has a zero in position $k$, the remaining $k-1$ digits of $p$ are arbitrary subject to the consecutivity condition, so the number of possibilities for $p$ is the number of representations of length $\leq k-1$, which is $F_{k+1}$. We can do this for each possible point of difference  with $s$ (which occur at the positions in which $s$ has a $1$, and thus must have nonconsecutive indices). This counts each predecessor of $s$ once and only once, and gives a representation of the number of predecessors as a sum of nonconsecutive Fibonacci numbers. But there are $n$ predecessors, so we have written $n$ as the required sum.

As an example of this process, consider the row numbered $7$, which is the sequence $1010$. If a predecessor differs from it at the first $1$, it is of the form $0***$ where the $*$’s are arbitrary (so long as there are no two consecutive $1$’s, so there are $F_{5}$ of them. If a predecessor differs from it at the second $1$, it is of the form $100*$ and again the $*$’s are arbitrary, so there are $F_{3}$ of them. Thus $7=F_{5}+F_{3}$.

This argument shows existence; uniqueness follows as well from this construction since every possible sum is represented in the list, and each one represents a different integer.

Title combinatorial proof of Zeckendorf’s theorem CombinatorialProofOfZeckendorfsTheorem 2013-03-22 19:05:53 2013-03-22 19:05:53 rm50 (10146) rm50 (10146) 5 rm50 (10146) Proof msc 11B39 msc 11A63