Usually an homogeneous linear recurrence relation of degree $k$ with $k \in\mathbb{Z}$ of the form

$$u_n = c_1u_{n-1} + c_2u_{n-2} + c_3u_{n-3} + \ldots + c_ku_{n-k}$$

has the characteristic polynomial equation of degree $k$ where each $x$-variable is raised to the power of the corresponding rank assuming $n=k$

$$x^k = c_1x^{k-1} + c_2x^{k-2} + c_3x^{k-3} + \ldots + c_{k-1}x^1 + c_kx^0$$

We know a linear recurrence relation is called non-homogeneous if it is in the form

$$u_n = c_1u_{n-1} + c_2u_{n-2} + c_3u_{n-3} + \ldots + c_ku_{n-k} + f \left(n \right)\quad\text{where}\quad f \left(n \right)\neq 0$$

The solution $\left(a_n \right)$ of a non-homogeneous recurrence relation has two parts.

First part is the solution $\left(a_h \right)$ of the associated homogeneous recurrence relation (obtained by removing the $f \left(n \right)$-part) and the second part is the particular solution $\left(a_t \right)$.

The final solution then have this form

$$a_n = a_h + a_t$$

The solution $\left(a_h \right)$ is determined by solving the characteristic polynomial equation, but what about the particular solution $\left(a_t \right)$?

I am trying to solve the following sequence $\begin{cases} u_0 &= 1 \\ u_n &= 1.5u_{n-1} + 2n \end{cases}$


Sketch (for a solution that does everything at once):


$$u_n=1.5u_{n-1}+2n$$ and $$ u_{n-1}=1.5u_{n-2}+2(n-1). $$

Subtracting these from each other gives $$ u_n-u_{n-1}=1.5u_{n-1}-1.5u_{n-2}+2 $$ or that $$ u_n=2.5u_{n-1}-1.5u_{n-2}+2 $$

Therefore, $$ u_{n-1}=2.5u_{n-2}-1.5u_{n-3}+2. $$

Subtracting these two gives \begin{align*} u_n-u_{n-1}&=(2.5u_{n-1}-1.5u_{n-2}+2)-(2.5u_{n-2}-1.5u_{n-3}+2)\\ &=2.5u_{n-1}-4u_{n-2}+1.5u_{n-3} \end{align*} or that $$ u_n=3.5u_{n-1}-4u_{n-2}+1.5u_{n-3}. $$

This last equation can be solved using the standard homogeneous recurrence formula.

The characteristic polynomial is then $$ x^3-3.5x^2+4x-1.5=(x-1)^2\left(x-1.5\right). $$ Therefore, the general form for $u_n$ is $$ u_n=c_1(1)^n+c_2n(1)^n+c_3(1.5)^n=c_1+c_2n+c_3(1.5)^n, $$ where the constants $c_1$, $c_2$, and $c_3$ are to be determined.

Plugging into the first recurrence, we have $$ c_1+c_2n+c_3(1.5)^n=1.5(c_1+c_2(n-1)+c_3(1.5)^{n-1})+2n $$ or that $$ c_1+c_2n=1.5c_1+1.5c_2n-1.5c_2+2n. $$ Since this equation must be true for any $n$, the corresponding coefficients must be equal. In other words, the coefficients without $n$'s satisfy $$ c_1=1.5c_1-1.5c_2 $$ and the coefficients with $n$ satisfy $$ c_2=1.5c_2+2. $$ In other words, $c_2=-4$ and $c_1=-12$.

Thus, the solution is of the form $$ u_n=-12-4n+c_3(1.5)^n. $$ Finally, using the initial value, $$ u_0=1=-12+c_3 $$ gives $$ c_3=13. $$

Putting this all together, the solution to the recurrence is $$ u_n=-12-4n+13(1.5)^n. $$

The homogeneous and particular setup here is a little complicated to express, the $(1.5)^n$ would be a solution to the homogeneous (with the initial condition $u_0=1$) and $-12-4n+12(1.5)^n$ is a solution to the particular with $u_0=0$). If you want to use the homogeneous and particular setup, you must be careful about the initial conditions.

  • $\begingroup$ Very nice answer. Thank you. The idea is to get rid of the particular part to get the homogeneous polynomial equation. $\endgroup$ – explogx Jan 4 '20 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ Can the same be applied in a generalized way to arithmetico-geometric sequences such as $u_n=1.5u_{n-1}+1$ with the initial condition $u_0=1$? $\endgroup$ – explogx Jan 4 '20 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ I ask this because some books usually solve for $\alpha=1.5\alpha+1$ and construct an auxiliary sequence $v_n=u_n-\alpha$ $\endgroup$ – explogx Jan 4 '20 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ Sure, it can be used in general (at least when $f(n)$ is a polynomial in $n$). You'll need to change the step where you determine the constants as appropriate. $\endgroup$ – Michael Burr Jan 4 '20 at 21:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes, when $f(n)$ is a polynomial, then the characteristic equation that you'll get using this method will be the characteristic equation of the homogeneous system times $(x-1)^{\deg(f)}$. So, it is solving the characteristic polynomial equation of degree $1$ in disguise - this can allow you to skip right to the answer and general form. $\endgroup$ – Michael Burr Jan 4 '20 at 21:40


Obviously the homogeneous solution is of the form $c\,1.5^n$. Then we can look for a particular solution with a linear form $an+b$.

We have


and by identification we obtain $a$ and $b$.



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