Sequence

In mathematics, a sequence is an enumerated collection of objects in which repetitions are allowed and order matters. Like a set, it contains members (also called elements, or terms). The number of elements (possibly infinite) is called the length of the sequence. Unlike a set, the same elements can appear multiple times at different positions in a sequence, and unlike a set, the order does matter. Formally, a sequence can be defined as a function from natural numbers (the positions of elements in the sequence) to the elements at each position. The notion of a sequence can be generalized to an indexed family, defined as a function from an index set that may not be numbers to another set of elements.

For example, (M, A, R, Y) is a sequence of letters with the letter 'M' first and 'Y' last. This sequence differs from (A, R, M, Y). Also, the sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8), which contains the number 1 at two different positions, is a valid sequence. Sequences can be finite, as in these examples, or infinite, such as the sequence of all even positive integers (2, 4, 6, ...).

The position of an element in a sequence is its rank or index; it is the natural number for which the element is the image. The first element has index 0 or 1, depending on the context or a specific convention. In mathematical analysis, a sequence is often denoted by letters in the form of , and , where the subscript n refers to the nth element of the sequence;[1] for example, the nth element of the Fibonacci sequence is generally denoted as .

In computing and computer science, finite sequences are sometimes called strings, words or lists, the different names commonly corresponding to different ways to represent them in computer memory; infinite sequences are called streams. The empty sequence ( ) is included in most notions of sequence, but may be excluded depending on the context.

An infinite sequence of real numbers (in blue). This sequence is neither increasing, decreasing, convergent, nor Cauchy. It is, however, bounded.