How do I prove that

$x_{n+2}=\frac{1}{2} \cdot (x_n + x_{n+1})$



is convergent?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have an initial value? It will make things considerably easier $\endgroup$ – frogeyedpeas Mar 17 '15 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ The sequence is defined by two initial values, but the proof of convergence depends only on the assumption that they are both real numbers. $\endgroup$ – David K Mar 17 '15 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ yeah I updated my question $\endgroup$ – geek4079 Mar 17 '15 at 21:39
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    $\begingroup$ $$a^{n+2} = 1/2 a^{n+1} + 1/2 a^{n} \rightarrow 2a^2 - a - 1 = 0. $$ Thus: $$ a = \frac{1 \pm \sqrt{1 + 4}}{4} = \frac{1 \pm \sqrt{5}}{4}$$ Note that $$ 2 < \sqrt{5} <3 \rightarrow |\frac{1 \pm \sqrt{5}}{4}| \le 1 $$ Thus as n approaches infinity this expression approaches 0 (a much stronger result) $\endgroup$ – frogeyedpeas Mar 17 '15 at 21:50
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    $\begingroup$ @frogeyedpeas, actually that quadratic factors into $(2a+1)(a-1)$. The square root portion in the quadratic formula is $\sqrt{b^2-4ac}=\sqrt{1^2-4\cdot2\cdot(-1)}=\sqrt{1+8}$. $\endgroup$ – Barry Cipra Mar 17 '15 at 22:19

Hint: how does $x_{n+2} - x_{n+1}$ relate to $x_{n+1} - x_n$?

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    $\begingroup$ This is by far the most efficient solution; it does not even require initial conditions. $\endgroup$ – Yves Daoust Mar 17 '15 at 22:05


$$x_{n+2} = \frac{1}{2}(x_n + x_{n+1}) $$

It follows that if

$$ x_n \le x_{n+1} $$

$$ x_n \le x_{n+2} \le x_{n+1} $$

Or if:

$$ x_n \ge x_{n+1} $$


$$ x_n \ge x_{n+2} \ge x_{n+1} $$

We note that equality only occurs if

$$ x_n = x_{n+1}$$

Thus consider the difference

$$ |x_{n+1} - x_n| = r $$

It then follows that

$$ |x_{n+2} - x_{n+1}| = \frac{r}{2}$$

(Verify this for the case of $x_{n+2} > x_{n+1}$ vs. $x_{n+2} < x_{n+1}$)


$$ |x_{n+k} - x_{n+k-1}| = \frac{r}{2^{k-1}} $$

(Verify this by induction)

Therefore as k approaches infinity

$$ |x_{n+k} - x_{n+k-1}| \rightarrow 0 $$

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    $\begingroup$ I'm missing the link between $x_n=x_{n+1}$ and $x_{n+1} - x_n=r$, sorry $\endgroup$ – geek4079 Mar 17 '15 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ Try to reason this one out, what happens every time you calculate: $x_{n+2} = \frac{1}{2}(x_{n+1} + x_{n})$. You are taking the average of the previous two values $\endgroup$ – frogeyedpeas Mar 17 '15 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ Thus you know that $x_{n+2}$ will be midway between $x_{n+1}, x_{n}$ $\endgroup$ – frogeyedpeas Mar 17 '15 at 21:52
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    $\begingroup$ Therefore if the distance between $x_{n+1}, x_{n}$ is r, the distance between $x_{n+2}, x_{n+1}$ is now $\frac{r}{2}$ $\endgroup$ – frogeyedpeas Mar 17 '15 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ Each time you move up to $x_{n+3}$, $x_{n+4}$ ... $x_{n+k}$ your distance between the current term and the most recent term is HALF the previous distance, yielding $r$, $\frac{r}{2}$ ... $\frac{r}{2^{k-1}}$ $\endgroup$ – frogeyedpeas Mar 17 '15 at 21:54

Let $$y_n \equiv x_n - \frac{x_0-x_1}{2}$$ Then it is easy to see that $$y_0 = \frac{x_0-x_1}{2} \\ y_1 = \frac{x_1-x_0}{2} = - y_0 $$ and with a wee bit of algebra, the relation $x_{n+2}= \frac{1}{2}(x_n+x_{n+1}$ becomes $$y_{n+2}= \frac{1}{2}(y_n+y_{n+1})$$

But because $y_1 = -y_0$ the behavior of $y_n$ is easy to see: $$ y_0 = y_0\\y_1 = -y_0 y_2 = 0 \\ y_3 = -\frac{1}{2} y_0 \\ y_4 = -\frac{1}{4} y_0 \\ y_5 = -\frac{3}{8} y_0 \\ y_6 = -\frac{5}{16} y_0 \\ y_7 = -\frac{11}{32} y_0 \\ $$ and in general, it is easy to show by induction that for $n > 3$ $$y_n = -\left( \frac{2}{3} + \frac{(-1)^{n-1} }{3\cdot 2^{n-2}} \right) y_0 $$ the limit of $y_n$ is always $\frac{2}{3}$ Then $x_n$ is obtained by adding back the average of $x_0$ and $x_1$ so it too has a finite limit.


As pointed by @RobertIsrael,


The first order differences decrease geometrically so that their sum converges.

  • $\begingroup$ You can even tell that this sum is $2(x_2-x_1)/3$, so convergence is to $(2x_2+x_1)/3$. $\endgroup$ – Yves Daoust Mar 17 '15 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Sorry for asking: I see that the sum is equal to $2(x_2-x_1)/3$ so I get convergence to $2(x_2-x_1)/3$ and not to $(2x_2+x_1)/3$ (as it is the correct result) as follows: \begin{align}\lim_{N\to+\infty}x_{N+1}&=\lim_{N\to+\infty}\sum_{n=0}^{N-1}{x_{n+2}-x_{n+1}}\\&=\lim_{N\to+\infty}\sum_{n=0}^{N-1}(-1/2)^n(x_2-x_1)\\&=\lim_{N\to +\infty}\frac23(x_2-x_1)(1-(-1/2)^N)=\frac23(x_2-x_1)\end{align} Thanks. Edit: Is it only that I have to start from $n=1$ instead of $n=0$? $\endgroup$ – Jimmy R. Jan 31 '16 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ $x_5=\cdots x_5-x_4+x_4-x_3+x_3-x_2+x_2-x_1+x_1=\left(\cdots\left(-\frac12\right)^4+\left(-\frac12\right)^3+\left(-\frac12\right)^2+\left(-\frac12\right)\right)(x_2-x_1)+x_1$ $\endgroup$ – Yves Daoust Jan 31 '16 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ Of course. Sorry for bothering you for something so trivial. Sometimes, I just get stacked with something that is obvious. Thanks anyway +1 $\endgroup$ – Jimmy R. Jan 31 '16 at 12:32

If $x_{n+1}=x_n$ then $x_{n+2}=x_{n+1}$ and by induction the sequence is constant, thus convergent.

If $x_{n+1}\ne x_n$ and w.l.o.g. $x_{n+1} > x_n$ then $x_{n+1} > x_{n+2} > x_n$. This makes each pair of adjacent terms closer than previous pair: $$|x_{n+2}-x_{n+1}|<|x_{n+1}-x_n|$$ Additionally, each term is a midpoint of the range defined by two preceding terms, so each pair distance is a half of the previous pair distance: $$|x_{n+2}-x_{n+1}|= \frac 12 |x_{n+1}-x_n| = \frac 1{2^n} |x_2-x_1|$$ so the sequence is Cauchy, which implies (in $\Bbb R$) it's convergent.

You can also note that the subsequences of every other term are monotone: $(x_{2i+1})_{i\in\Bbb N}$ is increasing and bounded by $x_2$, while $(x_{2i})_{i\in\Bbb N}$ is decreasing and bounded by $x_1$, so they are both convergent (however that alone does not prove $(x_n)$ is convergent).


Let $d = x_2 - x_1$, then:

$\begin{align} x_{2n+1} & = x_1 + d\sum_{i=1}^n\frac 1{2^{2i-1}} \\ x_{2n+2} & = x_2 - d\sum_{i=1}^n\frac 1{2^{2i}} \end{align}$

For $n=0$ both sums are empty and expressions result in $x_1$ and $x_2$, respectively.

For $n\to\infty$ both sums are geometric series with ratio $\tfrac14$, so:

$\lim_{n\to\infty} x_{2n+1} = x_1 + d\frac {\frac 12}{1-\frac 14} = x_1 + \frac23d$
$\lim_{n\to\infty} x_{2n+2} = x_2 - d\frac {\frac 14}{1-\frac 14} = x_2 - \frac13d$

so they are equal, thus

$\lim_{n\to\infty} x_n = \frac13 x_1 + \frac23 x_2$


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