# Proof of Fermat's Little Theorem

### By Chris Caldwell

Fermat's "biggest", and also his "last" theorem states that *x ^{n} +
y^{n} = z^{n}* has no solutions in positive integers

*x, y, z*with

*n*> 2. This has finally been proven by Wiles in 1995. Here we are concerned with his "little" but perhaps his most used theorem which he stated in a letter to Fre'nicle on 18 October 1640:

**Fermat's Little Theorem.**- Let
*p*be a prime which does not divide the integer*a*, then*a*^{p-1}≡ 1 (mod*p*).

It is so easy to calculate *a*^{p-1} quickly modulo *p* that most elementary primality tests are built
using a version of Fermat's Little Theorem rather than Wilson's Theorem.

As usual Fermat did not provide a proof (this time saying "I would send you the demonstration, if I did not fear its being too long" [Burton80, p79]). Euler first published a proof in 1736, but Leibniz left virtually the same proof in an unpublished manuscript from sometime before 1683.

**Proof.**Start by listing the first

*p*-1 positive multiples of*a*:*a*, 2*a*, 3*a*, ... (*p*-1)*a*Suppose that

*ra*and*sa*are the same modulo*p*, then we have*r*=*s*(mod*p*), so the*p*-1 multiples of*a*above are distinct and nonzero; that is, they must be congruent to 1, 2, 3, ...,*p*-1 in some order. Multiply all these congruences together and we find*a*(2*a*) (3*a*) ... ((*p*-1)*a*) ≡ 1^{.}2^{.}3^{.}...^{.}(*p*-1) (mod*p*)which is,

*a*^{(p-1)}(*p*-1)! ≡ (*p*-1)! (mod*p*). Divide both side by (*p*-1)! to complete the proof. ∎

Sometimes Fermat's Little Theorem is presented in the following form:

**Corollary.**- Let
*p*be a prime and*a*any integer, then*a*^{p}≡*a*(mod*p*).

**Proof.**- The result is trival (both sides are zero) if
*p*divides*a*. If*p*does not divide*a*, then we need only multiply the congruence in Fermat's Little Theorem by*a*to complete the proof. ∎