# Sequences Defined by a Recursive Formula

### Learning Objectives

- Write terms of a sequence defined by a recursive formula
- Write terms of a sequence using factorial notation

**recursive formula**, a formula that defines the terms of a sequence using previous terms. A recursive formula always has two parts: the value of an initial term (or terms), and an equation defining [latex]{a}_{n}[/latex] in terms of preceding terms. For example, suppose we know the following:

[latex]\begin{array}{l}{a}_{1}=3\hfill \\ {a}_{n}=2{a}_{n - 1}-1, \text{for} n\ge 2\hfill \end{array}[/latex]

We can find the subsequent terms of the sequence using the first term.[latex]\begin{array}{l}{a}_{1}=3\\ {a}_{2}=2{a}_{1}-1=2\left(3\right)-1=5\\ {a}_{3}=2{a}_{2}-1=2\left(5\right)-1=9\\ {a}_{4}=2{a}_{3}-1=2\left(9\right)-1=17\end{array}[/latex]

So the first four terms of the sequence are [latex]\left\{3,\text{ }5,\text{ }9,\text{ }17\right\}[/latex] . The recursive formula for the Fibonacci sequence states the first two terms and defines each successive term as the sum of the preceding two terms.[latex]\begin{array}{l}{a}_{1}=1\hfill \\ {a}_{2}=1\hfill \\ {a}_{n}={a}_{n - 1}+{a}_{n - 2}, \text{for} n\ge 3\hfill \end{array}[/latex]

To find the tenth term of the sequence, for example, we would need to add the eighth and ninth terms. We were told previously that the eighth and ninth terms are 21 and 34, so[latex]{a}_{10}={a}_{9}+{a}_{8}=34+21=55[/latex]

### A General Note: Recursive Formula

A**recursive formula**is a formula that defines each term of a sequence using preceding term(s). Recursive formulas must always state the initial term, or terms, of the sequence.

### Q & A

#### Must the first two terms always be given in a recursive formula?

*No. The Fibonacci sequence defines each term using the two preceding terms, but many recursive formulas define each term using only one preceding term. These sequences need only the first term to be defined.*

### How To: Given a recursive formula with only the first term provided, write the first [latex]n[/latex] terms of a sequence.

- Identify the initial term, [latex]{a}_{1}[/latex], which is given as part of the formula. This is the first term.
- To find the second term, [latex]{a}_{2}[/latex], substitute the initial term into the formula for [latex]{a}_{n - 1}[/latex]. Solve.
- To find the third term, [latex]{a}_{3}[/latex], substitute the second term into the formula. Solve.
- Repeat until you have solved for the [latex]n\text{th}[/latex] term.

### Example: Writing the Terms of a Sequence Defined by a Recursive Formula

Write the first five terms of the sequence defined by the recursive formula.[latex]\begin{array}{l}\begin{array}{l}\\ {a}_{1}=9\end{array}\hfill \\ {a}_{n}=3{a}_{n - 1}-20\text{, for }n\ge 2\hfill \end{array}[/latex]

Answer: The first term is given in the formula. For each subsequent term, we replace [latex]{a}_{n - 1}[/latex] with the value of the preceding term.

[latex]\begin{array}{ll}n=1\begin{array}{lllll}\hfill & \hfill & \hfill & \hfill & \hfill \end{array}\hfill & {a}_{1}=9\hfill \\ n=2\hfill & {a}_{2}=3{a}_{1}-20=3\left(9\right)-20=27 - 20=7\hfill \\ n=3\hfill & {a}_{3}=3{a}_{2}-20=3\left(7\right)-20=21 - 20=1\hfill \\ n=4\hfill & {a}_{4}=3{a}_{3}-20=3\left(1\right)-20=3 - 20=-17\hfill \\ n=5\hfill & {a}_{5}=3{a}_{4}-20=3\left(-17\right)-20=-51 - 20=-71\hfill \end{array}[/latex]

The first five terms are [latex]\left\{9,\text{ }7,\text{ }1,\text{ }-17,\text{ }-71\right\}[/latex]### Try It

Write the first five terms of the sequence defined by the recursive formula.[latex]\begin{array}{l}{a}_{1}=2\\ {a}_{n}=2{a}_{n - 1}+1\text{, for }n\ge 2\end{array}[/latex]

Answer: [latex]\left\{2, 5, 11, 23, 47\right\}[/latex]

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