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Generating function

In mathematics a generating function is a formal power series whose coefficients encode information about a sequence an that is indexed by the natural numbers.

There are various types of generating functions - definitions and examples are given below. Every sequence has a generating function of each type. The particular generating function that is most useful in a given context will depend upon the nature of the sequence and the details of the problem being addressed.

Generating functions are often expressed in closed form as functions of a formal argument x. Sometimes a generating function is evaluated at a specific value of x. However, it must be remembered that generating functions are formal power series, and they will not necessarily converge for all values of x.

Table of contents
1 Definitions
2 Examples
3 Uses
4 See also
5 References
6 External Links


A generating function is a clothesline on which we hang up a sequence of numbers for display. -- Herbert Wilf, generatingfunctionology (1994)

Ordinary generating function

The ordinary generating function of a sequence an is

When generating function is used without qualification, it is usually taken to mean an ordinary generating function.

If an is the probability mass function of a discrete random variable, then its ordinary generating function is called a probability-generating function.

The ordinary generating function can be generalised to sequences with multiple indexes. For example, the ordinary generating function of a sequence anm (where n and m are natural numbers) is

Exponential generating function

The exponential generating function of a sequence an is

Lambert series

The Lambert series of a sequence an is

Note that in a Lambert series the index n starts at 1, not at 0.

Dirichlet series generating functions

Dirichlet series are often classified as generating functions, although they are not strictly formal power series. The Dirichlet series generating function of a sequence an is

Dirichlet series generating functions are especially useful for multiplicative functions, when they have an Euler product expression. If an is a Dirichlet character then its Dirichlet series generating function is called a Dirichlet L-series.


Generating functions for the sequence of square numbers an = n2 are :-

Ordinary generating function

Exponential generating function

Dirichlet series generating function


Generating functions are used to :-

See also


External Links