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Series (mathematics)

In mathematics, a series is a sum of a sequence of terms.

Examples of simple series include arithmetic series which is a sum of a arithmetic progression which can be written as:

and geometric series which is a sum of a geometric progression which can be written as:

An infinite series is a sum of infinitely many terms. Such a sum can have a finite value; if it has, it is said to converge; if it does not, it is said to diverge. The fact that infinite series can converge resolves several of Zeno's paradoxes.

The simplest convergent infinite series is perhaps

It is possible to "visualize" its convergence on the real number line: we can imagine a line of length 2, with successive segments marked off of lengths 1, 1/2, 1/4, etc. There is always room to mark the next segment, because the amount of line remaining is always the same as the last segment marked: when we have marked off 1/2, we still have a piece of length 1/2 unmarked, so we can certainly mark the next 1/4. This argument does not prove that the sum is equal to 2, but it does prove that it is at most 2 -- in other words, the series has an upper bound.

This series is a geometric series and mathematicians usually write it as:

Formally, if an infinite series
is given with real (or complex) numbers an, we say that the series converges towards S or that its value is S if the limit
exists and is equal to S. If there is no such number, then the series is said to diverge.

Table of contents
1 Some types of infinite series
2 Convergence criteria
3 Examples
4 Absolute convergence
5 Power series
6 Generalizations

Some types of infinite series

Convergence criteria


The series

converges if r > 1 and diverges for r ≤ 1, which can be shown with the integral criterion 5) from above. As a function of r, the sum of this series is
Riemann's zeta function.

The geometric series

converges if and only if |z| < 1.

The telescoping series

converges if the sequence bn converges to a limit L as n goes to infinity. The value of the series is then b1 - L.

Absolute convergence

The sum

is said to converge absolutely if the series of absolute values
converges. In this case, the original series, and all reorderings of it, converge, and converge towards the same sum.

If a series converges, but not absolutely, then one can always find a reordering of the terms so that the reordered series diverges. Even more: if the an are real and S is any real number, one can find a reordering so that the reordered series converges with limit S (Riemann).

Power series

Several important functions can be represented as Taylor series; these are infinite series involving powers of the independent variable and are also called power series. See also radius of convergence.

Historically, mathematicians such as Leonhard Euler operated liberally with infinite series, even if they were not convergent. When calculus was put on a sound and correct foundation in the nineteenth century, rigorous proofs of the convergence of series were always required. However, the formal operation with non-convergent series has been retained in rings of formal power series which are studied in abstract algebra. Formal power series are also used in combinatorics to describe and study sequences that are otherwise difficult to handle; this is the method of generating functions.


The notion of series can be defined in every abelian topological group; the most commonly encountered case is that of series in a Banach space.