On the way home from school on the day of the trip downtown, a bunch of students stopped off at the arcade. It was always fun to talk and get something to eat and play a video game or two. Sam and Henry began to play a favorite game of theirs with aliens.
“That has a lot of math in it,” Sasha commented as Henry had his turn. “How do you figure?” Henry asked.
“It just does,” Sasha said convincingly. “Think about it. In this video game, an alien splits into two aliens who then split into two more aliens every 10 minutes.”
“Good point. So tell me how many aliens there would be after they split 10 times,” Henry challenged.
In this concept, you will learn to recognize, extend and graph geometric sequences.
Geometric Series
There are several different types of sequences that follow patterns. An arithmetic sequence has a fixed sum or difference between each term.
Consider the boxes below and you will see another type of sequence.
Can you see a pattern? The boxes increase each time. Using numbers, the sequence could be written as 1, 4, 16, 64.
Is this an arithmetic sequence? There is a difference of 3 between the first two terms, 12 between the second and third terms, and 48 between the third and fourth terms. Since there is no common difference, this is not an arithmetic sequence.
Looking at the sequence, you may notice that each term is multiplied by 4 to get the next term. The fifth term in the sequence can then be found by taking the 4^{th} term and multiplying by 4. Therefore the fifth term would be .
This is a geometric sequence; it’s a sequence in which the terms are found by multiplying by a fixed number called the common ratio. In the situation above, the common ratio is 4.
Once you know the common ratio, then you can figure out the next step in the pattern.
Let’s look at another example.
What is the common ratio between each of the terms in the sequence?
5,10, 20, 40, 80
Use a table to find the common ratio between successive terms.
Terms  Common Ratio 
The answer is 2.
The common ratio for this sequence is 2.
This is a geometric sequence where you multiply by 2 to get the next term in the sequence.
Let’s look at another example.
Consider the following sequence: 8, 24, 72, 216, ... What is the next term in the sequence?
First, determine if the sequence is arithmetic or geometric.
If it is arithmetic, it will have a common difference between successive terms. Use a table to determine the differences.
Terms  Difference 




There is no common difference so the sequence is not arithmetic. If it is geometric, it will have a common ratio between successive terms. Use a table to determine the ratios.
Terms  Common Ratio 








The sequence is geometric with a common ratio of 3.
Next, find the next term.
Since the common ratio is 3, the fifth term in the sequence will be
.The answer is 648.
The sequence will go
.It can be useful to graph geometric sequences. To do this, you would create a table of values and then use a coordinate plane to plot the points.
Let’s look at an example.
The amount of memory that computer chips can hold in the same amount of space doubles every year. In 1992, they could hold 1MB. Chart the next 15 years in a table of values and show the amount of memory on the same size chip in 2007.
First, create a table showing the 15 year span. The amount of space doubles every year so the common ratio is 2. This means to get the next term in the sequence you multiply the previous term by 2.
Year  Memory(MB) 
1992  1 
1993  2 
1994  4 
1995  8 
1996  16 
1997  32 
1998  64 
1999  128 
2000  256 
2001  512 
2002  1024 
2003  2048 
2004  4096 
2005  8192 
2006  16384 
2007  32768 
Next, graph the data from the table. Again, you will have discrete data.
Examples
Example 1
Earlier, you were given a problem about the splitting aliens.
In the video game that Sasha and Henry play, an alien splits into two aliens who then split into two more aliens every 10 minutes. Henry wants to know how many aliens there will be after 10 times.
You know that the aliens split into two every 10 minutes. Therefore the pattern is
.Continue this pattern for 10 times (or 100 minutes).
The answer is 1024.
After the alien splits 10 times, there will be 1024 aliens in the game.
Example 2
Find the common ratio in the sequence.
Use a table to find the common ratio between successive terms.
Terms  Common Ratio 






The answer is
.The common ratio for this sequence is
.This is a geometric sequence where you multiply by
to get the next term in the sequence.Example 3
Find the common ratio for the sequence 2, 4, 8, 16.
Use a table to find the common ratio between successive terms.
Terms  Common Ratio 








The answer is 2.
The common ratio for this sequence is 2.
This is a geometric sequence where you multiply by 2 to get the next term in the sequence.
Example 4
Find the common ratio for the sequence 1, 7, 49, 343.
Use a table to find the common ratio between successive terms.
Terms  Common Ratio 







\begin{align*}343 \div 49 =7 \end{align*} 
The answer is 7.
The common ratio for this sequence is 7.
This is a geometric sequence where you multiply by 7 to get the next term in the sequence.
Example 5
Find the common ratio for the sequence 400, 100, 25.
Use a table to find the common ratio between successive terms.
Terms  Common Ratio 
\begin{align*}400\end{align*}  
\begin{align*}100\end{align*}  \begin{align*}\frac{100}{400}=\frac{1}{4}\end{align*} 
\begin{align*}25\end{align*}  \begin{align*}\frac{25}{100}=\frac{1}{4}\end{align*} 
The answer is
.The common ratio for this sequence is
.This is a geometric sequence where you multiply by
to get the next term in the sequence.Review
Find the common ratio between each term.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
Identify the following sequences as an arithmetic sequence, a geometric sequence, or neither. For arithmetic sequences, find the common difference. For geometric sequences, find the common ratio.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14. \begin{align*} \frac{1}{6},\frac{1}{12},\frac{1}{24},\frac{1}{48}\end{align*}
15.