Infinite series can represent functions.

We saw previously that we can approximate functions by degree polynomials, which we called Taylor polynomials. If the function has infinitely many derivatives at , we can continue the process of finding the coefficients in the Taylor polynomial indefinitely. We obtain an infinite series by doing this, and we want to study this series.
Which of the following are power series functions?
Every polynomial is a power series.

Here are four basic power series (centered at zero) that every mathematician knows.

Next to each of the series, we list an interval which will correspond to the domain of the series. Using power series we can “read-off” properties of functions. Here are some examples.
  • We can easily see that , , and .
  • Since every power of in the power series for sine is odd, we can see that sine is an odd function. Likewise, since every power of in the power series for cosine is even, we can see cosine is an even function.
  • Limits like are “easy” to compute, since they can be rewritten as follows. and
  • Power series give us methods to actually compute values for these functions.

Convergence of power series

You may have noticed a small caveat above. The caveat is the “,” which we referred to as something like the domain of the function. This restriction is required because if our formula is true, then for any number , provided that , we have and the expression on the right-hand side of the equation above is a geometric series! As we’ve learned, geometric series only converge when the common ratio (in this case ) is between and noninclusive. If we look at a graph of along with a graph of we see

True or False:
true false
True or False:
true false

Our next theorem tells us what possible scenarios we could encounter when investigating convergence of power series.

True or False: A power series always converges when .
true false
True or False: If then .
true false

Power series are both similar to and different from the series we’ve previously studied. When we fix some value for , we are working with the sort of series we’ve already studied - a series of numbers. In this way, we can use all of our previous tools for working with series. We can also let be a variable, and consider our power series as a function. Because power series can define functions, we no longer exclusively talk about convergence at a point, instead we talk about the radius and interval of convergence.

In the previous definition, the interval of convergence depends on the series. We must separately consider the behavior of a power series at the endpoints of its interval of convergence. In other words, we plug in values for , and consider the series as a series of numbers!

Suppose you know that converges when and diverges when . Must the series converge at ?
yes no there is not enough information

How do we check for radius of convergence? Two old friends can come to the rescue: the ratio and root tests.

While the ratio and root test are good for determining the radius of convergence of a power series, they are useless for determining convergence at the end-points of the interval. Let’s see an example:

Let’s work through an example of a power series that only converges at a single point.

New power series from old

With the basic power series above, we can produce new power series via algebraic manipulation.

In our first example we will derive Euler’s famous formula where is the number .

Euler’s formula allows us to produce (by setting ) the amazing identity: This identity combines the fundamental constants, , , , and , along with the fundamental operations of addition, multiplication, and exponentiation!

A few notes about the theorem above:
  • The theorem states that differentiation and integration do not change the radius of convergence. It does not state anything about the interval of convergence. They are not always the same. Check the endpoints!
  • Notice how the summation for starts with . This is because the derivative of the constant term of is .
  • Differentiation and integration are simply calculated term-by-term using the power rule.

Let’s see an example.