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Geometric series

This article is about innite geometric series. For nite series is constant. This relationship allows for the represums, see geometric progression.
sentation of a geometric series using only two terms, r
In mathematics, a geometric series is a series with a and a. The term r is the common ratio, and a is the rst
term of the series. As an example the geometric series
given in the introduction,
1
2

1/8
1/8

1/4

1
4

1
8

1
16

may simply be written as

a + ar + ar2 + ar3 + , with r =
a = 12 .

1/4

1
2

and

The following table shows several geometric series with

dierent common ratios:

1/2

The behavior of the terms depends on the common ratio

r:

1/2

If r is between 1 and +1, the terms of the series become smaller and smaller, approaching
zero in the limit and the series converges to a
sum. In the case above, where r is one half, the
series has the sum one.

Each of the purple squares has 1/4 of the area of the next larger
square (1/21/2 = 1/4, 1/41/4 = 1/16, etc.). The sum of the
areas of the purple squares is one third of the area of the large
square.

If r is greater than one or less than minus

one the terms of the series become larger and
larger in magnitude. The sum of the terms also
gets larger and larger, and the series has no
sum. (The series diverges.)

the series
1
1
1
1
+
+
+
+
2
4
8
16

If r is equal to one, all of the terms of the series

are the same. The series diverges.

is geometric, because each successive term can be obtained by multiplying the previous term by 1/2.

If r is minus one the terms take two values alternately (e.g. 2, 2, 2, 2, 2,... ). The sum of
the terms oscillates between two values (e.g. 2,
0, 2, 0, 2,... ). This is a dierent type of divergence and again the series has no sum. See for
example Grandis series: 1 1 + 1 1 + .

Geometric series are one of the simplest examples of

innite series with nite sums, although not all of
them have this property. Historically, geometric series
played an important role in the early development of
calculus, and they continue to be central in the study
of convergence of series. Geometric series are used
throughout mathematics, and they have important applications in physics, engineering, biology, economics,
computer science, queueing theory, and nance.

2 Sum

The sum of a geometric series is nite as long as the absolute value of the ratio is less than 1; as the numbers near
1 Common ratio
zero, they become insignicantly small, allowing a sum to
be calculated despite the series containing innitely-many
The terms of a geometric series form a geometric pro- terms. The sum can be computed using the self-similarity
gression, meaning that the ratio of successive terms in the of the series.
1

SUM

As n goes to innity, the absolute value of r must be less

than one for the series to converge. The sum then becomes

a+ar+ar2 +ar3 +ar4 + =

A self-similar illustration of the sum s. Removing the largest circle
results in a similar gure of 2/3 the original size.

2.1

Example

ark =

k=0

a
|r| < 1
1r

When a = 1, this simplies to:

1 + r + r2 + r3 + =

1
,
1r

the left-hand side being a geometric series with common

ratio r. We can derive this formula:
s = 1+

2
4
8
+
+
+
3
9
27

This series has common ratio 2/3. If we multiply through

by this common ratio, then the initial 1 becomes a 2/3,
the 2/3 becomes a 4/9, and so on:

Lets = 1 + r + r2 + r3 + .
Thenrs = r + r2 + r3 + .
Thens rs = 1, so s(1 r) = 1, thus and s =

2
2
4
8
16
s =
+
+
+
+
3
3
9
27
81

1
.
1r

The formula holds true for complex r, with the same

This new series is the same as the original, except that restrictions (modulus of r is strictly less than one).
the rst term is missing. Subtracting the new series (2/3)s
from the original series s cancels every term in the original
2.3 Proof of convergence
but the rst:
We can prove that the geometric series converges using
the sum formula for a geometric progression:

2
s s = 1, so s = 3.
3
A similar technique can be used to evaluate any selfsimilar expression.

1 + r + r2 + r3 + = lim

(
)
1 + r + r2 + + rn

1 rn+1
n
1r

= lim

2.2

Formula

Since (1 + r + r2 + ... + rn )(1r) = 1rn+1 and rn+1 0

For r = 1 , the sum of the rst n terms of a geometric for | r | < 1.
series is:
Convergence of geometric series can also be demon-

n1

strated by rewriting the series as an equivalent telescoping

series. Consider the function:
ark = a

k=0

1 rn
,
1r

where a is the rst term of the series, and r is the common

ratio. We can derive this formula as follows:

Lets = a + ar + ar2 + ar3 + + arn1 .

Thenrs = ar + ar + ar + ar + + ar
2

Thens rs = a arn
Thens(1 r) = a(1 rn ), so s = a

1 rn
1r

g(K) =

rK
1r

Note that:

n

Thus:

3.2

If
0.7777 . . . =
|r| < 1

a
7/10
7
=
= .
1r
1 1/10
9

The formula works not only for a single repeating gure,

but also for a repeating group of gures. For example:

then

g(K) 0as K
0.123412341234 . . . =
So S converges to

g(0) =

2.4

a
1234/10000
1234
=
=
.
1r
1 1/10000
9999

Note that every series of repeating consecutive decimals

can be conveniently simplied with the following:

1
.
1r

Generalized formula

0.09090909 . . . =

09
1
=
.
99
11

For r = 1 , the sum of the rst n terms of a geometric 0.143814381438 . . . = 1438 .

9999
series is:
9
0.9999 . . . =
= 1.
9
b
a
b+1

r r
That is, a repeating decimal with repeat length n is equal
rk =
,
1r
to the quotient of the repeating part (as an integer) and
k=a
10n - 1.
where a, b N .
We can derive this formula as follows:
we put b = n 1 n = b + 1
b

k=a

rk =

n1

k=0

rk

a1

3.2 Archimedes
parabola

of

the

rk

k=0

1 rn
1 ra
=

1r
1r
1 rn 1 + ra
=
1r
ra rb+1
=
1r

3
3.1

Applications
Repeating decimals

many triangles

Main article: The Quadrature of the Parabola

Archimedes used the sum of a geometric series to comA repeating decimal can be thought of as a geometric sepute the area enclosed by a parabola and a straight line.
ries whose common ratio is a power of 1/10. For examHis method was to dissect the area into an innite number
ple:
of triangles.
7
7
7
7
+
+
+
+ .
0.7777 . . . =
10
100
1000
10000

Archimedes Theorem states that the total area under the

parabola is 4/3 of the area of the blue triangle.

Archimedes determined that each green triangle has 1/8

The formula for the sum of a geometric series can be used the area of the blue triangle, each yellow triangle has 1/8
to convert the decimal to a fraction:
the area of a green triangle, and so forth.

3 APPLICATIONS

Assuming that the blue triangle has area 1, the total area
is an innite sum:

1+2

( )
( )2
( )3
1
1
1
+4
+8
+ .
8
8
8

The rst term represents the area of the blue triangle, the
second term the areas of the two green triangles, the third
term the areas of the four yellow triangles, and so on.
Simplifying the fractions gives

1+

1
1
1
+
+
+ .
4
16
64

This is a geometric series with common ratio 1/4 and the

fractional part is equal to

4n = 1 + 41 + 42 + 43 + =

n=0

4
.
3
The interior of the Koch snowake is a union of innitely many
triangles.

The sum is
1
1
=
1r
1

1
4

4
.
3

Thus the Koch snowake has 8/5 of the area of the base
triangle.

This computation uses the method of exhaustion, an early

version of integration. In modern calculus, the same area
3.4
could be found using a denite integral.

3.3

Main article: Zenos paradoxes

Fractal geometry

In the study of fractals, geometric series often arise as the The convergence of a geometric series reveals that a sum
involving an innite number of summands can indeed be
perimeter, area, or volume of a self-similar gure.
nite, and so allows one to resolve many of Zeno's paraFor example, the area inside the Koch snowake can be doxes. For example, Zenos dichotomy paradox maindescribed as the union of innitely many equilateral tri- tains that movement is impossible, as one can divide any
angles (see gure). Each side of the green triangle is ex- nite path into an innite number of steps wherein each
actly 1/3 the size of a side of the large blue triangle, and step is taken to be half the remaining distance. Zenos
therefore has exactly 1/9 the area. Similarly, each yellow mistake is in the assumption that the sum of an innite
triangle has 1/9 the area of a green triangle, and so forth. number of nite steps cannot be nite. This is of course
Taking the blue triangle as a unit of area, the total area of not true, as evidenced by the convergence of the geometthe snowake is
ric series with r = 1/2 .

1+3

( )
( )2
( )3
1
1
1
+ 12
+ 48
+ .
9
9
9

The rst term of this series represents the area of the blue
triangle, the second term the total area of the three green
triangles, the third term the total area of the twelve yellow
triangles, and so forth. Excluding the initial 1, this series
is geometric with constant ratio r = 4/9. The rst term of
the geometric series is a = 3(1/9) = 1/3, so the sum is

1+

1
a
= 1+ 3
1r
1

4
9

8
.
5

3.5 Euclid
Book IX, Proposition 35 of Euclids Elements expresses the partial sum of a geometric series in terms of
members of the series. It is equivalent to the modern formula.

3.6 Economics
Main article: Time value of money

5
In economics, geometric series are used to represent the
present value of an annuity (a sum of money to be paid
in regular intervals).

tan

For example, suppose that a payment of \$100 will be

made to the owner of the annuity once per year (at the
end of the year) in perpetuity. Receiving \$100 a year
from now is worth less than an immediate \$100, because
one cannot invest the money until one receives it. In particular, the present value of \$100 one year in the future is
\$100 / (1 + I ), where I is the yearly interest rate.

dx
1 + x2

dx
=
1 (x2 )
(
)
) (
)2 (
)3
(
=
1 + x2 + x2 + x2 + dx

(
)
=
1 x2 + x4 x6 + dx

(x) =

x3
x5
x7
+

+
3
5
7

(1)n 2n+1
=
x
2n + 1
n=0

Similarly, a payment of \$100 two years in the future has

a present value of \$100 / (1 + I )2 (squared because
two years worth of interest is lost by not receiving the
money right now). Therefore, the present value of receiving \$100 per year in perpetuity is

=x

By dierentiating the geometric series, one obtains the

variant

\$100
,
(1
+ I)n
n=1
which is the innite series:

nxn1 =

n=1

1
(1 x)2

Similarly obtained are:

\$100
\$100
\$100
\$100
+
+
+
+ .
2
3
(1 + I)
(1 + I)
(1 + I)
(1 + I)4
This is a geometric series with common ratio 1 / (1 + I
). The sum is the rst term divided by (one minus the
common ratio):

n(n 1)xn2 =

n=2

2
(1 x)3

n(n 1)(n 2)xn3 =

n=3

\$100/(1 + I)
\$100
=
.
1 1/(1 + I)
I
For example, if the yearly interest rate is 10% ( I = 0.10),
then the entire annuity has a present value of \$100 / 0.10
= \$1000.
This sort of calculation is used to compute the APR of
a loan (such as a mortgage loan). It can also be used to
estimate the present value of expected stock dividends, or
the terminal value of a security.

for |x| < 1,

6
(1 x)4

0.999...
Asymptote
Divergent geometric series
Generalized hypergeometric function

3.7

The formula for a geometric series

Geometric progression
Neumann series
Ratio test

1
= 1 + x + x2 + x3 + x4 +
1x
can be interpreted as a power series in the Taylors theorem sense, converging where |x| < 1 . From this, one can
extrapolate to obtain other power series. For example,

Root test
Series (mathematics)
Tower of Hanoi

4.1

5.1 History and philosophy

C. H. Edwards, Jr. (1994). The Historical Development of the Calculus, 3rd ed., Springer. ISBN 9780-387-94313-8.

Grandis series: 1 1 + 1 1 +
1+2+4+8+
12+48+

Swain, Gordon and Thomas Dence (April 1998).

Archimedes Quadrature of the Parabola Revisited. Mathematics Magazine 71 (2): 12330.
doi:10.2307/2691014. JSTOR 2691014.

1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 +

1/2 1/4 + 1/8 1/16 +

Eli Maor (1991). To Innity and Beyond: A Cultural

History of the Innite, Princeton University Press.
ISBN 978-0-691-02511-7

References

 Euclids Elements, Book IX, Proposition

Aleph0.clarku.edu. Retrieved 2013-08-01.

35.

603

Abramowitz, M. and Stegun, I. A. (Eds.). Handbook of Mathematical Functions with Formulas,

Graphs, and Mathematical Tables, 9th printing.
New York: Dover, p. 10, 1972.
Arfken, G. Mathematical Methods for Physicists,
3rd ed. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, pp. 278-279,
1985.
Beyer, W. H. CRC Standard Mathematical Tables,
28th ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, p. 8, 1987.
Courant, R. and Robbins, H. The Geometric Progression. 1.2.3 in What Is Mathematics?: An Elementary Approach to Ideas and Methods, 2nd ed.
Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, pp. 1314, 1996.

Morr Lazerowitz (2000). The Structure of Metaphysics (International Library of Philosophy), Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-22526-7

5.2 Economics
Carl P. Simon and Lawrence Blume (1994). Mathematics for Economists, W. W. Norton & Company.
ISBN 978-0-393-95733-4
Mike Rosser (2003).
Basic Mathematics for
Economists, 2nd ed., Routledge. ISBN 978-0-41526784-7

5.3 Biology
Edward Batschelet (1992). Introduction to Mathematics for Life Scientists, 3rd ed., Springer. ISBN
978-0-387-09648-3
Richard F. Burton (1998). Biology by Numbers: An
Encouragement to Quantitative Thinking, Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-57698-7

Pappas, T. Perimeter, Area & the Innite Series.

The Joy of Mathematics. San Carlos, CA: Wide 5.4 Computer science
World Publ./Tetra, pp. 134-135, 1989.
John Rast Hubbard (2000). Schaums Outline of
James Stewart (2002). Calculus, 5th ed., Brooks
Theory and Problems of Data Structures With Java,
Cole. ISBN 978-0-534-39339-7
McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-137870-3
Larson, Hostetler, and Edwards (2005). Calculus
with Analytic Geometry, 8th ed., Houghton Miin
Company. ISBN 978-0-618-50298-1

Roger B. Nelsen (1997). Proofs without Words: Exercises in Visual Thinking, The Mathematical Association of America. ISBN 978-0-88385-700-7

Hazewinkel, Michiel, ed. (2001), Geometric progression, Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer,

ISBN 978-1-55608-010-4

Andrews, George E. (1998). The geometric series

in calculus. The American Mathematical Monthly
(Mathematical Association of America) 105 (1):
3640. doi:10.2307/2589524. JSTOR 2589524.

Weisstein, Eric
MathWorld.

W.,

Geometric

Geometric Series at PlanetMath.org.

Series,

7
Peppard, Kim. College Algebra Tutorial on Geometric Sequences and Series. West Texas A&M
University.
Casselman, Bill. A Geometric Interpretation of the
Geometric Series (Applet).
Geometric Series by Michael Schreiber, Wolfram
Demonstrations Project, 2007.

7.1

Text

Geometric series Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geometric%20series?oldid=628341466 Contributors: AxelBoldt, Bryan Derksen,

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7.2

Images

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