A tetrahedral number, or triangular pyramidal number, is a figurate number that represents a pyramid with a triangular base and three sides, called a tetrahedron. The nth tetrahedral number is the sum of the first n triangular numbers.
The first ten tetrahedral numbers are:
The tetrahedral numbers can also be represented as binomial coefficients:
Tetrahedral numbers can therefore be found in the fourth position either from left or right in Pascal's triangle.
Tetrahedral numbers can be modelled by stacking spheres. For example, the fifth tetrahedral number (T5 = 35) can be modelled with 35 billiard balls and the standard triangular billiards ball frame that holds 15 balls in place. Then 10 more balls are stacked on top of those, then another 6, then another three and one ball at the top completes the tetrahedron.
- Tn + Tn-1 = 12 + 22 + 32 ... + n2
- A. J. Meyl proved in 1878 that only three tetrahedral numbers are also perfect squares, namely:
- T1 = 1² = 1
- T2 = 2² = 4
- T48 = 140² = 19600.
- Sir Frederick Pollock conjectured that every number is the sum of at most 5 tetrahedral numbers: see Pollock tetrahedral numbers conjecture.
- The only tetrahedral number that is also a square pyramidal number is 1 (Beukers, 1988), and the only tetrahedral number that is also a perfect cube is 1.
- The infinite sum of tetrahedral numbers' reciprocals is 3/2, which can be derived using telescoping series:
- The parity of tetrahedral numbers follows the repeating pattern odd-even-even-even.
- An observation of tetrahedral numbers:
- T5 = T4 + T3 + T2 + T1
- Numbers that are both triangular and tetrahedral must satisfy the binomial coefficient equation:
- The only numbers that are both Tetrahedral and Triangular numbers are (sequence A027568 in the OEIS):
- Te1 = Tr1 = 1
- Te3 = Tr4 = 10
- Te8 = Tr15 = 120
- Te20 = Tr55 = 1540
- Te34 = Tr119 = 7140