What is a term to term rule and a position to term rule in math?

2 Answers

embizze's profile pic

embizze | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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A sequence is an ordered set; usually the objects in the set (often numbers) are written with commas between them. e.g. 1,3,5,7 is a finite sequence, 1,3,5,7,... is an infinite sequence as is 2,4,8,16,... or 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,... (the primes.) The elements of the sequence are called terms; since the elements are ordered we can speak of the first term or `a_1` , second term `a_2` and the nth term `a_n` .

Sometimes there is a rule or rules that allow you to find terms of the sequence.

A term to term rule allows you to find the next number in the sequence if you know the previous term (or terms.) This is also called a recursive rule. For example, if the sequence is 1,3,5,7,... then in order to find the next term you add 2 to the previous term. `a_5=a_4+2` or in general `a_n=a_(n-1)+2` . The drawback to such a rule is that you have to know the previous terms. If I ask for the 100th term in this sequence, you must know the 99th term.

A position to term rule, also called an explicit rule, allows you to compute the value of any term. For the example 1,3,5,7,... the nth term is `a_n=2n-1` . Thus the fifth term is 2(5)-1=9. The 100th term is 2(100)-1=199.

Sometimes finding a position to term rule is difficult. The Fibonacci sequence 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,... has as a term to term rule `a_1=1,a_2=1, a_n=a_(n-2)+a_(n-1)` for `n>=3` .

The position to term rule is `a_n=(((1+sqrt(5))/2)^n-((1-sqrt(5))/2)^n)/sqrt(5)` .

Some sequences admit no known rule of either type, for instance the sequence of primes.

Here is a video on finding term to term rules:


pramodpandey's profile pic

pramodpandey | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The term to term rule is the difference between the numbers in the sequence.


A position to term rule  refers to a position sequence that carries on through a sequenced pattern that is uneven. It is usually used to find out the next number in a sequence.

for example


`a_n-a_(n-1)=n,n>=2, a_1=1`

`` This relation can define an infinite number of terms of the sequence

`{a_n}` .This is an example of position to term rule.