Geometric series
Part of a series of articles about  
Calculus  





Specialized


In mathematics, a geometric series is a series with a constant ratio between successive terms. For example, the series
is geometric, because each successive term can be obtained by multiplying the previous term by 1/2.
Geometric series are among the simplest examples of infinite series with finite 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 finance.
Common ratio
The terms of a geometric series form a geometric progression, meaning that the ratio of successive terms in the series is constant. This relationship allows for the representation of a geometric series using only two terms, r and a. The term r is the common ratio, and a is the first term of the series. As an example the geometric series given in the introduction,
may simply be written as
 , with and .
The following table shows several geometric series with different start terms and common ratios:
Start term, a  Common ratio, r  Example series 

4  10  4 + 40 + 400 + 4000 + 40,000 + ··· 
9  1/3  9 + 3 + 1 + 1/3 + 1/9 + ··· 
7  1/10  7 + 0.7 + 0.07 + 0.007 + 0.0007 + ··· 
3  1  3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + 3 + ··· 
1  −1/2  1 − 1/2 + 1/4 − 1/8 + 1/16 − 1/32 + ··· 
3  –1  3 − 3 + 3 − 3 + 3 − ··· 
The behavior of the terms depends on the common ratio r:
 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.
 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.)
 If r is equal to one, all of the terms of the series are the same. The series diverges.
 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 different type of divergence and again the series has no sum. See for example Grandi's series: 1 − 1 + 1 − 1 + ···.
Sum
The sum of a geometric series is finite as long as the absolute value of the ratio is less than 1; as the numbers near zero, they become insignificantly small, allowing a sum to be calculated despite the series containing infinitely many terms. The sum can be computed using the selfsimilarity of the series.
Example
Consider the sum of the following geometric series:
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:
This new series is the same as the original, except that the first term is missing. Subtracting the new series (2/3)s from the original series s cancels every term in the original but the first,
A similar technique can be used to evaluate any selfsimilar expression.
Formula
For , the sum of the first n terms of a geometric series is
where a is the first term of the series, and r is the common ratio. We can derive this formula as follows:
so,
As n goes to infinity, the absolute value of r must be less than one for the series to converge. The sum then becomes
When a = 1, this can be simplified to
the lefthand side being a geometric series with common ratio r.
The formula also holds for complex r, with the corresponding restriction, the modulus of r is strictly less than one.
Proof of convergence
We can prove that the geometric series converges using the sum formula for a geometric progression:
Since (1 + r + r^{2} + ... + r^{n})(1−r) = 1−r^{n+1} and r^{n+1} → 0 for  r  < 1.
Convergence of geometric series can also be demonstrated by rewriting the series as an equivalent telescoping series. Consider the function,
Note that
Thus,
If
then
So S converges to
Applications
Repeating decimals
A repeating decimal can be thought of as a geometric series whose common ratio is a power of 1/10. For example:
The formula for the sum of a geometric series can be used to convert the decimal to a fraction,
The formula works not only for a single repeating figure, but also for a repeating group of figures. For example:
Note that every series of repeating consecutive decimals can be conveniently simplified with the following:
That is, a repeating decimal with repeat length n is equal to the quotient of the repeating part (as an integer) and 10^{n}  1.
Archimedes' quadrature of the parabola
Archimedes used the sum of a geometric series to compute the area enclosed by a parabola and a straight line. His method was to dissect the area into an infinite number of triangles.
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 area of the blue triangle, each yellow triangle has 1/8 the area of a green triangle, and so forth.
Assuming that the blue triangle has area 1, the total area is an infinite sum:
The first 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
This is a geometric series with common ratio 1/4 and the fractional part is equal to
The sum is
This computation uses the method of exhaustion, an early version of integration. Using calculus, the same area could be found by a definite integral.
Fractal geometry
In the study of fractals, geometric series often arise as the perimeter, area, or volume of a selfsimilar figure.
For example, the area inside the Koch snowflake can be described as the union of infinitely many equilateral triangles (see figure). Each side of the green triangle is exactly 1/3 the size of a side of the large blue triangle, and therefore has exactly 1/9 the area. Similarly, each yellow triangle has 1/9 the area of a green triangle, and so forth. Taking the blue triangle as a unit of area, the total area of the snowflake is
The first 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 first term of the geometric series is a = 3(1/9) = 1/3, so the sum is
Thus the Koch snowflake has 8/5 of the area of the base triangle.
Zeno's paradoxes
The convergence of a geometric series reveals that a sum involving an infinite number of summands can indeed be finite, and so allows one to resolve many of Zeno's paradoxes. For example, Zeno's dichotomy paradox maintains that movement is impossible, as one can divide any finite path into an infinite number of steps wherein each step is taken to be half the remaining distance. Zeno's mistake is in the assumption that the sum of an infinite number of finite steps cannot be finite. This is of course not true, as evidenced by the convergence of the geometric series with .
Euclid
Book IX, Proposition 35^{[1]} of Euclid's Elements expresses the partial sum of a geometric series in terms of members of the series. It is equivalent to the modern formula.
Economics
In economics, geometric series are used to represent the present value of an annuity (a sum of money to be paid in regular intervals).
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 + ), where is the yearly interest rate.
Similarly, a payment of $100 two years in the future has a present value of $100 / (1 + )^{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
which is the infinite series:
This is a geometric series with common ratio 1 / (1 + ). The sum is the first term divided by (one minus the common ratio):
For example, if the yearly interest rate is 10% ( = 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.
Geometric power series
The formula for a geometric series
can be interpreted as a power series in the Taylor's theorem sense, converging where . From this, one can extrapolate to obtain other power series. For example,
By differentiating the geometric series, one obtains the variant^{[2]}
Similarly obtained are:
 and
See also
 0.999...
 Asymptote
 Divergent geometric series
 Generalized hypergeometric function
 Geometric progression
 Neumann series
 Ratio test
 Root test
 Series (mathematics)
Specific geometric series
 Grandi's series: 1 − 1 + 1 − 1 + ⋯
 1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + ⋯
 1 − 2 + 4 − 8 + ⋯
 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + 1/16 + ⋯
 1/2 − 1/4 + 1/8 − 1/16 + ⋯
 1/4 + 1/16 + 1/64 + 1/256 + ⋯
References
 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. 13–14, 1996.
 Pappas, T. "Perimeter, Area & the Infinite Series." The Joy of Mathematics. San Carlos, CA: Wide World Publ./Tetra, pp. 134–135, 1989.
 James Stewart (2002). Calculus, 5th ed., Brooks Cole. ISBN 9780534393397
 Larson, Hostetler, and Edwards (2005). Calculus with Analytic Geometry, 8th ed., Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 9780618502981
 Roger B. Nelsen (1997). Proofs without Words: Exercises in Visual Thinking, The Mathematical Association of America. ISBN 9780883857007
 Andrews, George E. (1998). "The geometric series in calculus". The American Mathematical Monthly. Mathematical Association of America. 105 (1): 36–40. doi:10.2307/2589524. JSTOR 2589524.
History and philosophy
 C. H. Edwards, Jr. (1994). The Historical Development of the Calculus, 3rd ed., Springer. ISBN 9780387943138.
 Swain, Gordon and Thomas Dence (April 1998). "Archimedes' Quadrature of the Parabola Revisited". Mathematics Magazine. 71 (2): 123–30. doi:10.2307/2691014. JSTOR 2691014.
 Eli Maor (1991). To Infinity and Beyond: A Cultural History of the Infinite, Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691025117
 Morr Lazerowitz (2000). The Structure of Metaphysics (International Library of Philosophy), Routledge. ISBN 9780415225267
Economics
 Carl P. Simon and Lawrence Blume (1994). Mathematics for Economists, W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393957334
 Mike Rosser (2003). Basic Mathematics for Economists, 2nd ed., Routledge. ISBN 9780415267847
Biology
 Edward Batschelet (1992). Introduction to Mathematics for Life Scientists, 3rd ed., Springer. ISBN 9780387096483
 Richard F. Burton (1998). Biology by Numbers: An Encouragement to Quantitative Thinking, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521576987
Computer science
 John Rast Hubbard (2000). Schaum's Outline of Theory and Problems of Data Structures With Java, McGrawHill. ISBN 9780071378703
External links
 Hazewinkel, Michiel, ed. (2001) [1994], "Geometric progression", Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer Science+Business Media B.V. / Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 9781556080104
 Weisstein, Eric W. "Geometric Series". MathWorld.
 Geometric Series at PlanetMath.org.
 Peppard, Kim. "College Algebra Tutorial on Geometric Sequences and Series". West Texas A&M University.
 Casselman, Bill. "A Geometric Interpretation of the Geometric Series". Archived from the original (Applet) on 20070929.
 "Geometric Series" by Michael Schreiber, Wolfram Demonstrations Project, 2007.