Given $$a_{n+1}=a_n+\frac{n}{a_1+\dots+a_n},\qquad a_1>0$$ The answer is $$\lim_{n\to\infty} a_n\sim\sqrt{3}\cdot\sqrt{n}-\frac{\sqrt{3}}{4}\cdot\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}$$

It is easy to show this sequence is increasing, and is divergent, because if assume the opposite $A=\lim_{n\to\infty} a_n$, we will get $A=A+\frac{1}A$, which gives contradictions. We also have

$$a_{n+1}\ge a_n +\frac{1}{a_n}\ge2$$

From here I can show:

$$a_1+\frac{n}{a_n}\le a_{n+1}\le a_1+\frac{n}{a_1}$$


This equation can be also written as:

$$\begin{align} a_n&=\sum_{k=1}^n a_k-\sum_{k=1}^{n-1} a_k\\ \\ a_n&=\frac{n}{a_{n+1}-a_n}-\frac{n-1}{a_{n}-a_{n-1}}\\ \\ a_n(a_{n+1}-a_n)(a_{n}-a_{n-1})&=n(a_{n}-a_{n-1})-(n-1)(a_{n+1}-a_n)\tag{1} \end{align}$$

If assume $a_n=c\cdot n^p$

$$a_{n+1}-a_n\sim cp\cdot n^{p-1},~~~a_{n}-a_{n-1}\sim cp\cdot n^{p-1}$$

Plug into $(1)$ and only keep the leading order:

$$c^2p\cdot n^{2p-1}=1$$

So we get $p=\frac{1}2$ and $c=\sqrt{2}$

Why the leading order coefficient is $\sqrt{2}$, not $\sqrt{3}$?

The bottom line is, if I take the answer as template, let $$a_n=c\sqrt{n}+t\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}}+o(\frac{1}{\sqrt{n}})$$

Pretend we don't know coefficients $c$ and $t$. Now we want to compute $c$ and $t$. To the leading order approximation, We have $$a_{n+1}-a_n= c\cdot \frac{1}{2\sqrt{n}}+O(\frac{1}{n^{3/2}})$$

Next, plug into Eq.$(1)$ and we can solve for $c=\sqrt{2}$. Why does this give a contradiction?


Thank you to @Sangchul Lee , @Somos and @Youem

I put the computation part in the answer box below, and it works for asymptotic approximation at arbitrary order.

  • $\begingroup$ Where did you get that $\frac{1}{A}$ from? I must be missing something. $\endgroup$ Aug 4 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @A-LevelStudent math.stackexchange.com/questions/155839/… $\endgroup$ Aug 4 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Your approximation of $a_{n+1}-a_{n}$ is incorrect. $\endgroup$
    – Youem
    Aug 5 at 20:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Here is a proof of the leading-order term. $\endgroup$ Aug 5 at 22:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Awesome! Right, after group them together, it gives the second derivative! $a_{n+1}-2a_n+a_{n-1}=a''_n=cp(p-1)n^{p-2}$ thank you so much! @SangchulLee $\endgroup$
    – MathFail
    Aug 6 at 2:12

2 Answers 2


An alternative method depends on the sum sequence and a functional equation.

Define the sequence $$ b_0 = 0,\;\; b_1 = a_1,\;\; b_2 = 2a_1 \!+\! 1/a_1,\; \text{ and }\\ b_n = 2 \!+\! (1 \!-\! b_{n-2}b_{n-3} \!-\! 2b_{n-2}^2)/b_{n-1}\; \text{ for }\; n>2. \tag{1}$$ This sequence satisfies the equation $$ 0 = 1 + b_nb_{n+1} - 2b_{n+1}^2 + 2b_{n+2}^2 - b_{n+2}b_{n+3}, \quad \text{ for }\quad n\ge0. \tag{2}$$

Define the sequence $\,a_n := b_n-b_{n-1}.\,$ Then elementary algebra implies that $$ a_{n+1} = a_n + \frac{n}{b_n} = a_n+\frac{n}{a_1+\dots+a_n}, \quad \text{ for }\quad n>0. \tag{3} $$ Assume the Ansatz $$b_n=c\, n^p(1 + t_1x + t_2x^2 + t_3x^3 + \dots) \tag{4}$$ for some $\,p>0\,$ where $\,x := 1/n.\,$ Some algebra shows that only $\,p=3/2\,$ works and moreover, for this value of $\,p,\,$ substituting the Ansatz into equation $(2)$ with $\,n+k\,$ replaced with $\,x/(1+kx)\,$ gives $\, 0 = 1-\frac34 c^2 + O(x).\,$ This implies that $\,c=\frac2{\sqrt{3}}\,$ and more terms of the series expansion for $\,b_n\,$ in terms of $\,x\,$ are found by solving for the $\,t_k\,$ giving $$ b_n = \frac2{\sqrt{3}}x^{-\frac32}\cdot\\ \left(1 \!+\! \frac{4c_0+3}4x \!+\! \frac{8c_0^2 \!+\! 12c_0 \!+\! 3}{48}x^2 \!-\! \frac{8c_0^3 \!+\! 18c_0^2 \!+\! 9c_0}{432}x^3 \!+\! O(x^4)\right) \tag{5}$$ where $\,c_0\,$ is a constant depending on $\,a_1.\,$ The series expansion for $\,a_n\,$ is hence $$ a_n = \sqrt{3}x^{-\frac12}\cdot\\ \left(1 + \frac{c_0}3 x - \frac{c_0^2}{18}x^2 + \frac{c_0^3}{54}x^3 - \frac{1520c_0^4 -81}{196992}x^4 +O(x^5)\right). \tag{6}$$

NOTE: The above analysis was purely formal. That is, I did not use actual computation of $\,a_n\,$ for any particular values of $\,n\,$ and $\,a_1.\,$ However, I have now done the calculations of $\,a_n\,$ where $\,n=1\,$ up to $\,n=2^{15}\,$ and for $\,a_1=1\,$ up to $\,a_1=10.\,$

Assuming $\,a_n = \sqrt{3n}(1+c_n/n)\,$ where $\,c_n\,$ depends on $\,a_1,\,$ then plotting $\,c_n\,$ with $\,y=c_n\,$ versus $\,x=\log(n)\,$ seems to show that $\,y\,$ oscillates very roughly between $\,-.14\,a_1^2\,$ and $\,.11\,a_1^2\,$ with a period of roughly $9.$ Thus, $\,c_n\,$ does not have a limiting value and it does depend on $\,a_1.\,$ This is all based on limited numerical data and is not even close to a proof, still it is suggestive of the true situation.

  • $\begingroup$ For Eq.(4), do you mean to set the Ansatz as $b_n=\frac{2}{\sqrt{3}}x^{-3/2}(1+t_1x+t_2x^2+t_3x^3+...)$ and substitute into Eq.(2) to determine those coefficients $t_1, t_2, t_3, ...$? $\endgroup$
    – MathFail
    Aug 5 at 23:38
  • $\begingroup$ This solution Ansatz somehow gives a feeling like the Frobenius method to solve ODE. Is there a connection between this recurrence equation and ODE ? $\endgroup$
    – MathFail
    Aug 5 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ @MathFail Thanks for those comments! I have added more terms of the Ansatz. $\endgroup$
    – Somos
    Aug 5 at 23:45
  • $\begingroup$ In your Eq.(6), the next order term $\frac{c_0}{3}x$ depends on $c_0$, which further depends on $a_1$, but the answer shows $c_0=-3/4$, which is independent of $a_1$ ? $\endgroup$
    – MathFail
    Aug 6 at 4:52
  • $\begingroup$ But my calculation got the same coefficients with the answer, which is independent of $a_1$. I am confused here. Since this is an asymptotic expansion when $n\to \infty$, not an exact formula to compute $a_n$. I know if it is an exact formula, it should depend on the initial condition, which is $a_1$. But for asymptotic case, does it also depends on initial condition, generally speaking? $\endgroup$
    – MathFail
    Aug 6 at 14:29

$$a_{n+1}=a_n+\frac{n}{\sum_{k=1}^n a_k}$$

This equation can be written as:

$$\sum_{k=1}^n a_k=\frac{n}{a_{n+1}-a_n}$$

Further, we can find $a_n$ by taking subtraction:

$$\begin{align} a_n&=\sum_{k=1}^n a_k-\sum_{k=1}^{n-1} a_k\\ \\ a_n&=\frac{n}{a_{n+1}-a_n}-\frac{n-1}{a_{n}-a_{n-1}}\\ \\ a_n(a_{n+1}-a_n)(a_{n}-a_{n-1})&=n(a_{n}-a_{n-1})-(n-1)(a_{n+1}-a_n)\tag{1}\\ \\ &=(a_{n+1}-a_n)-n(a_{n+1}-2a_n+a_{n-1}) \end{align}$$

First determine the leading order. Let $a_n=c_0\cdot n^p$

$$\begin{align} a_{n+1}&=c_0(n+1)^p=c_0 \left(n^p+pn^{p-1}+\frac{1}{2}p(p-1)n^{p-2}+...\right)\tag{2}\\ \\ a_{n-1}&=c_0(n-1)^p=c_0 \left(n^p-pn^{p-1}+\frac{1}{2}p(p-1)n^{p-2}+...\right)\tag{3} \end{align}$$

Plug into $(1)$ and only keep the leading order on both sides:

$$c_0n^p\cdot c_0pn^{p-1}\cdot c_0pn^{p-1}=(2 c_0 p - c_0 p^2)n^{p-1}$$

So we get:

$$3p-2=p-1,~~~~~~c_0^3 p^2=(2 c_0 p - c_0 p^2)$$

$$\Rightarrow p=\frac{1}2,~~~c_0=\sqrt{3}$$

Next, find the next order, so we set the solution Ansatz as:

$$a_n=\sqrt{n}\left(c_0+c_1\cdot\frac{1}n \right),~~~~~c_0=\sqrt{3}$$

Plug into $(1)$ and re-do the series expansion to update $(2)$ and $(3)$. Now, comparing the coefficients for $\frac{1}{n^{3/2}}$

$$-\frac{3}4c_1\frac{1}{n^{3/2}}=\left(-\frac{\sqrt{3}}8 - \frac{5}4c_1\right)\frac{1}{n^{3/2}}$$

$$\Rightarrow c_1=-\frac{\sqrt{3}}{4}$$

Next, set the solution Ansatz as:

$$a_n=\sqrt{n}\left(c_0+c_1\cdot\frac{1}n+c_2\cdot\frac{1}{n^2} \right),~~~~~c_0=\sqrt{3},~~c_1=-\frac{\sqrt{3}}{4}$$

Now, comparing the coefficients for $\frac{1}{n^{5/2}}$

$$\frac{3}{32}(\sqrt{3}-40c_2)\frac{1}{n^{5/2}}=\frac{3}{64}\left(\sqrt{3} - 112c_2\right)\frac{1}{n^{5/2}}$$

$$\Rightarrow c_2=-\frac{\sqrt{3}}{32}$$

Keep going on this method, we get:

$$a_n=\sqrt{n}\left(\sqrt{3}-\frac{\sqrt{3}}{4}\cdot\frac{1}n-\frac{\sqrt{3}}{32}\cdot\frac{1}{n^2}-\frac{\sqrt{3}}{128}\cdot\frac{1}{n^3}-\frac{79\sqrt{3}}{38912}\cdot\frac{1}{n^4}+\cdots \right)$$

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Have you looked at the end of my answer? I don't think that any terms after $\sqrt{3n}$ are accurate according to my computations. In other words, in the Ansatz, $c_1$ is not constant. $\endgroup$
    – Somos
    Aug 7 at 23:45
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure, since the answer gives $c_1=-\frac{\sqrt{3}}{4}$. Can you prove it rigorously? $\endgroup$
    – MathFail
    Aug 8 at 17:55

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