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# STUDY GUIDE

UNIT 2

## Geometric Sequences and Series

To prepare for their revolution against the Spanish, Andres Bonifacio recruited members of the
Katipunan by requiring each new member to enlist two others who did not know each other. If we
assume that each new member succeeds in doing this task, the numbers of the Katipunan will double
every week. This is an example of a geometric sequence, which we will study in this unit.

Objectives
Illustrate a geometric sequence.
Differentiate an arithmetic sequence from a geometric sequence.
Differentiate a finite geometric sequence from an infinite geometric sequence.
Determine the geometric means and the nth term of a geometric sequence.
Find the sum of the terms of a given finite or infinite geometric sequence.

I. Geometric Sequence
A geometric sequence (also known as a geometric progression) is a sequence where each term
after the first is obtained by multiplying the preceding term by a constant. This constant is known
as the common ratio and is denoted by r.

Example 1:
In the sequence 3,6,12,24,48,.... , each term is doubled to obtain the succeeding term. Thus, the
common ratio of this sequence is 2.
Unlike those in an arithmetic sequence, the terms in a geometric sequence do not share a
common difference.

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## To decide whether a sequence is geometric, we check whether the ratios of consecutive

terms are always the same. Thus, if an and an+ 1 are consecutive terms of a geometric
sequence, the formula for the common ratio r of that sequence is
a n+1
r= .
a
n

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In the given sequence in Example 1, can you verify if 6 = 24 ?
The general term an of a geometric sequence follows the formula

an = a1 rn-1

where n is the order of the term and a1 is the first term. For instance, you may verify that the
fourth term of the sequence shown in Example 1 is equal to

a4 = 3 (2)4 -1

Example 2:
Consider the geometric sequence
1 1 1
1, , , ,...
248
Write a formula that describes it.
Solution:
1
Step 1: Find the common ratio of the sequence. If we use the consecutive terms 1 and ,
then r is calculated as follows: 2 4
1
a
r = n +1 = 4 = 1 2 = 1
an 1 4 2
2
Step 2: Use the formula for the general term.
a = a rn-1
n 1
1 n-1
an = (1)
2

a = 1 n-1
n

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We may also obtain the first few terms of a geometric sequence if its general term is given.
Consider the next example.

Example 3:
Write the first four terms of the sequence defined by the rule

n
a = 2 - 1 n-1
2
Solution:
Substituting n = 1 , n = 2, n = 3 , and n = 4 into the given formula results in the following:

1 1 -1 1 0
a1 = 2 - =2 - = 2 (1 ) = 2
2 2
1 2 -1 11 1
a2 = 2 - =2 - = 2- = -1
2 2 2
1 3 -1 12 1 1
a3 = 2 - =2 - =2 =
2 2 4 2
1 4 -1 13 1 1
a4 = 2 - =2 - = 2- =-
2 2 8 4
1 1
Therefore, the first four terms of the sequence are 2, -1, , and .
2 4

## II. The Geometric Mean

To find the nth term in a geometric sequence, we use the formula for the general term of a
geometric sequence which is
an = a1 rn-1

For example, we can find the sixth term a6 in the sequence 3, -6,12, -24,... by determining the
common ratio r. This can be done by dividing a given term by the term that comes before it:

a
r= n+1

an

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-6 12 12
If we substitute the consecutive terms and , we obtain r = = -2. We can now use the
-6
formula for the general term to solve for a6 :
a6 = a1 r6 -1
a6 = 3 (-2)5
a6 = 3 (-32)
a6 = -96
Any term of a geometric sequence that appears between two other terms is known as a
geometric mean of those terms.

Example 1:
In the geometric sequence

5,15,45,225,...
15 is the geometric mean of 5 and 45;
45 is the geometric mean of 15 and 225; and
15 and 45 are the geometric means of 5 and 225.
Unlike an arithmetic mean, a geometric mean is not the average of the given terms. Thus, we
need to solve for r to find missing geometric means.

Example 2:
Find the two geometric means between 2 and 1024, as in the sequence 2,
_____, _____, 1024
Solution:
Step 1: Find the common ratio r by substituting a1 = 2 and a4 = 1024

a4 = a1 r3
1024 = 2r3
512 = r3
r=8
Step 2: Complete the sequence.
2 16 128 1024

8 8 8
Therefore, the two geometric means between 2 and 1024 are 16 and 128.

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## III. Geometric Series

A geometric sequence with first term a1 and common ratio r follows the general rule
an = a1 rn-1
and the first n terms of this sequence are written as
a1 , a1 r , a1 r2 , a1 r3 , a1 r4 , ..., a1 rn
A geometric series is an expression formed by adding the terms of a geometric sequence,
written as

## S = a + a r + a r 2 + ... + a rn-1 (Eq. 1)

n 1 1 1 n

In other words, a geometric series refers to the sum of all n terms of a geometric sequence.
Interestingly, if both sides of this equation are multiplied by r, then the equation will become
r
S = a r + a r 2 + a r 3 + ... + a rn (Eq. 2)
n 1 1 1 n

Notice that the number of terms on the right-hand side remains unchanged. Also, most of
the terms appear in both equations, except for a1 and a1 rn . Subtracting (2) from (1) results in
the following:
S n = a1 + a1 r + a1 r 2 + ... + an rn-1 -rS

n = a1 r + a1 r 2 + a1 r 3 + ... + an rn

S n - rS n = a1 - a1 rn S
n (1 - r ) = a1 (1 - rn )
a - 1 - rn
Sn = 1 ( )
1-r
The last equation is the general rule for any finite geometric series Sn (the sum of the first n
terms) provided that r 1 . This restriction is included because the denominator of the general
rule becomes zero when r = 1 , and we cannot divide by zero.

Example:
Find the sixth partial sum of the geometric series 1 + 5 + 25 + 125 + ...

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Solution:

The given information in the problem are n = 6 , a1 = 1 , and r = 5 . Substituting these into the
general rule for finite geometric series yields
a 1 - rn
Sn = 1( r )
1-
1 (1 - 56 )
S=
n 1-5
Sn = -15624
-4
Sn = 3906
Note that the given series in this example may be written in sigma notation as
6

5n-1
n=1

Using the same example, can you find S9 ? Express this in sigma notation.

## IV. Finite vs Infinite Geometric Series

It is said that an average person can only fold a piece of paper in half up to seven times,
regardless of the size of the paper used. Each time the paper is folded, its thickness doubles,
and it takes more energy to do the next fold.
Now imagine you have a very large piece of paper 0.1 mm thick, and you can fold it as many
times as you want. You might be surprised to find out that
28 folds will take you higher than Mt. Everest;
42 folds will get you to the Moon;
51 folds and you would have reached the Sun; and
103 folds are all it takes to get outside of the universe!

As you can see, terms of geometric sequences could get incredibly large or small in just a couple
of steps. Unlike in arithmetic sequences, the difference between consecutive terms in a
geometric sequence increases exponentially.

## At this point, it is best to examine what happens to the partial sum

a 1 - rn
Sn = 1( r )
1-
of an arithmetic series as the number of terms in it becomes infinitely many, that is, as the
value of n approaches infinity (represented by the symbol ).

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If r 1 , then rn becomes too big that no sum can be evaluated. Thus, we say that the series is
divergent.
However, if r < 1 , the resulting sums become interesting as n increases. Consider r = 1 and
observe what happens. 2

8
1
0.00390625
2
9
1
0.001953125
2
1 20
0.0009765625
2
1 10
0.00000095367
2
1 30
0.00000000093
2

Note that as n increases to a very large value, rn approaches a very small value that
eventually becomes negligible or zero. With rn = 0 , the infinite geometric series will then be
convergent to the value
a
S= 1

1-r

Example:
Find the sum of the terms of the infinite geometric sequence
1 1 1
1 , , , ,...
2 4 8 16

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Solution:
Applying the rule for infinite geometric series, the sum is

a1
S = 1- r
1
S= 2
1- 1
2
1
S= 2
1
2
S=1
In this example, the infinite series can be written as
n
1
n=1 2

Can you find the sum of the infinite series 1 + 1 + 1 + ... ? Express the sum in sigma notation.
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1. Paper Folding
How many times can you fold a sheet of paper in half without tearing it? Can you go
beyond seven folds? Measure the thickness of the paper from the third fold onwards.
2. Half of Half of Half of Half
Shown below are two identical squares, where the second one is divided into parts.
a. Label the other sections of the second square with their respective areas. Assume that
the figure is drawn to scale. Evaluate the resulting infinite series to find the total area of
the square.
b. Can you find a way to divide the first square into sections that have the same area as
those in the second square without making any rectangular sections?

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## 3. There Can Only Be One!

Would you believe it if someone told you that 0.999... is equal to 1? In the equations below,
notice that the expression in parentheses is an infinite geometric series. Write its terms in
fraction form, then evaluate the series and simplify the equation. Write the sum in sigma
notation as well.
0.999... = 0.9 + 0.09 + 0.009 + 0.0009 + ...
0.999... = 9 (0.1 + 0.01 + 0.001 + 0.0001 + ...)

Examples
Questions
1. Find the first term of a geometric sequence whose fourth term is 8 and whose common
1
ratio is .
2
1
2. Insert two geometric means between and 54.
4
3. Find the sum of the series
12

4. 3 (-2)n-1
n=1

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1
1. Let a4 = 8 and r = 2 . Using the formula for the nth term of a geometric sequence, we
have
an = a1 rn-1
3
1
8 = a1
2
64 = a1

2. Let a1 = 1 and a4 = 54 . We solve for r using the formula for the nth term:
4
a = a rn-1
n 1

54= 1 r4 -1
4
216= r3
6= r

The terms of the sequence are 1 , 3 ,9,54 . Therefore, the two geometric means are 3
42 2
and 9.
3. The sum of the given series is equal to S12 , where TIPS
, r = -2 , and n = 12 . Substituting these
intoa=3
1 Pay attention to the sign of
the formula for geometric series results in
the common ratio.
a 1 (1 - r n )
Sn =
1-r
3 ( 1 - ( -2)
12
S )
12 = 1 - ( -2)

S 3 (1- 4096)
12 = 3
S
12 = -4095
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Wrap Up

## SET OF KEY POINTS

NUMBERS
The following formulas are useful
in finding terms (and sums of
terms) of geometric sequences:
NOT A no WITH
PATTERN? a = a rn-1
SEQUENCE n 1

a
1
S= , where r < 1
yes 1-
r
NOT AN no
COMMON S a1 (1 - rn )
GEOMETRIC n=
RATIO? 1-r
SEQUENCE
where an is the nth term, a1 is the
yes first term, r is the common ratio,
Sn is the nth partial sum, and S is
GEOMETRIC the sum. Note that r 1 must be
SEQUENCE met for the sums to be valid.
Bibliography
Geometric Sequences and Series, accessed January 9, 2017, http://www.mhhe.com/math/
devmath/dugopolski/inter/student/olc/graphics/dugopolski03ia_s/ch12/others/ch12-4.pdf
Geometric Sequences and Series, accessed January 9, 2017, http://www.hec.ca/en/cam/
help/topics/geometric_sequences_and_series.pdf
How to Calculate Geometric Mean, accessed January 9, 2017, https://deq.mt.gov/
Portals/112/Water/wpb/WPBForms/pdf/Geometric-Mean.pdf
Geometric Series, accessed January 9, 2017, https://math.dartmouth.edu/archive/m8w10/
public_html/m8l05.pdf

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