# Sequence and Summation Notation

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A *sequence* is an ordered set of numbers that may have a finite or infinite number of terms. If the sequence is finite, the last term is shown, like .

Contributed by: S. M. Blinder (July 2018)

Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

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## Details

A finite series always has a sum: just add up the terms. Formulas for two basic finite series are

and

.

An infinite series may or may not have a finite sum.

The partial sums of an infinite series are the sequence , , , …. If the sequence of partial sums has a limit, that is called the sum of the series.

The partial sums may grow without bound, like for the series . Then the sum is infinite and the symbol is used as if it were a number, like this:

.

Even if the terms get smaller, the partial sums may still grow without bound as more terms are added. For example,

.

An infinite series may have a finite sum, but the terms must get small quickly enough. Any decimal is the sum of an infinite series: the powers of 10 in the denominators grow so quickly. For example,

.

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