The previous post explained why the number of trailing zeros in n! is
and that the sum is not really infinite because all the terms with index i larger than log5 n are zero. Here ⌊x⌋ is the floor of x, the largest integer no greater than x.
The post gave the example of n = 8675309 and computed that the number of trailing zeros is 2168823 using the Python code
sum(floor(8675309/5**i) for i in range(1, 10))
Now suppose you wanted to calculate this by hand. You would want to be more clever than the code above. Instead of dividing n by 5, and then by 25, and then by 125 etc. you’d save time by first computing
⌊8675309/5⌋ = 1735061,
⌊1735061/5⌋ = 347012,
and so forth.
Is this calculation justified? We implicitly assumed that, for example,
⌊n/25⌋ = ⌊⌊n/5⌋ /5⌋.
This seems reasonable, so reasonable that we might not think to check it, but calculations with floor and ceiling functions can be tricky.
There’s a theorem from Concrete Mathematics that can help us.
Let f(x) be any continuous, monotonically increasing function with the property that whenever f(x) is an integer, x is an integer. Then
⌊ f(x) ⌋ =⌊ f(⌊x⌋) ⌋
⌈ f(x) ⌉ =⌈ f(⌈x⌉) ⌉.
Note that the requirements on f compose. That is, if a function f satisfies the hypothesis of the theorem, so do the compositions f∘f and f∘f∘f etc. This means we can apply the theorem above iteratively to conclude
⌊ f(f(x)) ⌋ =⌊ f (⌊f(⌊x⌋)⌋) ⌋
⌈f( f(x)) ⌉ =⌈ f (⌈f(⌈x⌉)⌉) ⌉
and similarly for higher compositions.
The hand calculation above is justified by applying the iterated theorem to the function f(x) = x/5.