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Recurrence Relations

Rather than definitions they will be considered as equations that we

must solve. The point is that a recursive definition is actually a def-

inition when there is one and only one object satisfying it, i.e., when

the equations involved in that definition have a unique solution. Also,

the solution to those equations may provide a closed-form (explicit)

formula for the object defined.

The recursive step in a recursive definition is also called a recurrence

relation. We will focus on kth-order linear recurrence relations, which

are of the form

C0 xn + C1 xn1 + C2 xn2 + + Ck xnk = bn ,

where C0 6= 0. If bn = 0 the recurrence relation is called homogeneous.

Otherwise it is called non-homogeneous.

The basis of the recursive definition is also called initial conditions

of the recurrence. So, for instance, in the recursive definition of the

Fibonacci sequence, the recurrence is

Fn = Fn1 + Fn2

or

Fn Fn1 Fn2 = 0 ,

and the initial conditions are

F0 = 0, F1 = 1 .

using the recurrence repeatedly until obtaining a explicit close-form

formula. For instance consider the following recurrence relation:

xn = r xn1 (n > 0) ; x0 = A .

76

5.1. RECURRENCE RELATIONS 77

xn = r xn1 = r2 xn2 = r3 xn3 = = rn x0 = A rn ,

hence the solution is xn = A rn .

In the following we assume that the coefficients C0 , C1 , . . . , Ck are

constant.

case can be written in the following way:

xn = r xn1 (n > 0) ; x0 = A .

Its general solution is

xn = A r n ,

which is a geometric sequence with ratio r.

The non-homogeneous case can be written in the following way:

xn = r xn1 + cn (n > 0) ; x0 = A .

Using the summation notation, its solution can be expressed like this:

X

n

n

xn = A r + ck rnk .

k=1

xn = r xn1 + c (n > 0); x0 = A .

where c is a constant. The solution is

X n

rn 1

n

xn = A r + c rnk = A rn + c if r 6= 1 ,

k=1

r1

and

xn = A + c n if r = 1 .

has a population growth rate (birth rate minus death rate) of 1% per

year, and it also receives 100 thousand immigrants per year (which

are quickly assimilated and reproduce at the same rate as the native

population). Find its population in 10 years from now. (Assume that

all the immigrants arrive in a single batch at the end of the year.)

5.1. RECURRENCE RELATIONS 78

xn = 1.01 xn1 + 100, 000 (n > 0); x0 = 100, 000, 000 .

This is the equation above with r = 1.01, c = 100, 000 and A =

100, 000, 00, hence:

1.01n 1

xn = 100, 000, 000 1.01n + 100, 000

1.01 1

= 100, 000, 000 1.01n + 1000 (1.01n 1) .

So:

x10 = 110, 462, 317 .

and d are constant (so cn is an arithmetic sequence):

xn = xn1 + c + d n (n > 0) ; x0 = A .

The solution is now

Xn

d n (n + 1)

xn = A + (c + d k) = A + c n + .

k=1

2

the recurrence relation

C0 xn + C1 xn1 + C2 xn2 = 0 .

First we will look for solutions of the form xn = c rn . By plugging in

the equation we get:

C0 c rn + C1 c rn1 + C2 c rn2 = 0 ,

hence r must be a solution of the following equation, called the char-

acteristic equation of the recurrence:

C0 r2 + C1 r + C2 = 0 .

Let r1 , r2 be the two (in general complex) roots of the above equation.

They are called characteristic roots. We distinguish three cases:

recurrence relation is

xn = c1 r1n + c2 r2n ,

where c1 , c2 are arbitrary constants.

5.1. RECURRENCE RELATIONS 79

recurrence relation is

xn = c1 rn + c2 n rn ,

where c1 , c2 are arbitrary constants.

3. Complex Roots. In this case the solution could be expressed

in the same way as in the case of distinct real roots, but in

order to avoid the use of complex numbers we write r1 = r ei ,

r2 = r ei , k1 = c1 + c2 , k2 = (c1 c2 ) i, which yields:1

xn = k1 rn cos n + k2 rn sin n .

defined by:

Fn+1 = Fn + Fn1 (n > 0) ; F0 = 0, F1 = 1 .

Answer : The recurrence relation can be written

Fn Fn1 Fn2 = 0 .

The characteristic equation is

r2 r 1 = 0 .

Its roots are:2

1+ 5 1 1 5

r1 = = ; r2 = = .

2 2

They are distinct real roots, so the general solution for the recurrence

is:

Fn = c1 n + c2 (1 )n .

Using the initial conditions we get the value of the constants:

(

(n = 0) c1 + c2 = 0 c1 = 1/5

(n = 1) c1 + c2 (1 ) = 1 c2 = 1/ 5

Hence:

1 n

Fn = ()n .

5

2 = 1+ 5

is the Golden Ratio.

2

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