journal article

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Covering sumsets of a prime field and class numbers

2023 Research in the Mathematical Sciences

doi: 10.1007/s40687-023-00404-z

We study covering sumsets of a prime field based on its multiplicative structure. By developing various sufficient analytic and algebraic criteria for their existence, it is shown that covering sumsets arise in two main families, namely in the form of complementary sumsets and in the form of double sumsets. In each case, the abundance of covering sumsets is supported by providing asymptotically growing lower bounds on their number which in turn point out a rich array of fruitful connections to seemingly unrelated topics such as the Titchmarsh divisor problem, Mersenne primes, Fermat quotients, partitions into cycles, quadratic reciprocity, Gauss and Jacobi sums, and density results in class field theory resulting from Chebotarev’s theorem. Moreover, representations of an element taken from a prime field, in terms of the sums in a covering sumset, furnish us with new formulas for the class numbers of quadratic fields, Bernoulli numbers and Bernoulli polynomials. In this way, curious tendencies among the number of representations are discovered over half intervals. Lastly, our findings show in different circumstances that the summands of a covering sumset can seldom form an arithmetic progression, thereby indicating a tension between additive and multiplicative structures in a prime field.