Arithmetic Progression
An arithmetic progression (AP) is a sequence where the differences between every two consecutive terms are the same. In this type of progression, there is a possibility to derive a formula for the n^{th} term of the AP. For example, the sequence 2, 6, 10, 14, … is an arithmetic progression (AP) because it follows a pattern where each number is obtained by adding 4 to the previous term. In this sequence, n^{th} term = 4n2. The terms of the sequence can be obtained by substituting n=1,2,3,... in the n^{th} term. i.e.,
 When n = 1, first term = 4n2 = 4(1)2 = 42=2
 When n = 2, second term = 4n2 = 4(2)2 = 82=6
 When n = 3, thirs term = 4n2 = 4(3)2 = 122=10
In this article, we will explore the concept of arithmetic progression, the formula to find its n^{th} term, common difference, and the sum of n terms of an AP. We will solve various examples based on arithmetic progression formula for a better understanding of the concept.
What is Arithmetic Progression?
We can define an arithmetic progression (AP) in two ways:
 An arithmetic progression is a sequence where the differences between every two consecutive terms are the same.
 An arithmetic progression is a sequence where each term, except the first term, is obtained by adding a fixed number to its previous term.
For example, 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, ... has
 a = 1 (the first term)
 d = 4 (the "common difference" between terms)
In general an arithmetic sequence can be written like: {a, a+d, a+2d, a+3d, ... }.
Using the above example we get: {a, a+d, a+2d, a+3d, ... } = {1, 1+4, 1+2×4, 1+3×4, ... } = {1, 5, 9, 13, ... }
Arithmetic Progression Definition
Arithmetic progression is defined as the sequence of numbers in algebra such that the difference between every consecutive term is the same. It can be obtained by adding a fixed number to each previous term.
Arithmetic Progression Formula
For the first term 'a' of an AP and common difference 'd', given below is a list of arithmetic progression formulas that are commonly used to solve various problems related to AP:
 Common difference of an AP: d = a_{2}  a_{1 }= a_{3}  a_{2} = a_{4}  a_{3} = ... = a_{n}  a_{n1}
 n^{th} term of an AP: a_{n} = a + (n  1)d
 Sum of n terms of an AP: S_{n }= n/2(2a+(n1)d) = n/2(a + l), where l is the last term of the arithmetic progression.
AP Formula
The image below shows the formulas related to arithmetic progression:
Common Terms Used in Arithmetic Progression
From now on, we will abbreviate arithmetic progression as AP. Here are some more AP examples:
 6, 13, 20, 27, 34, . . . .
 91, 81, 71, 61, 51, . . . .
 π, 2π, 3π, 4π, 5π,…
 √3, −2√3, −3√3, −4√3, −5√3,…
An AP generally is shown as follows: a_{1}, a_{2}, a_{3}, . . . It involves the following terminology.
First Term of Arithmetic Progression:
As the name suggests, the first term of an AP is the first number of the progression. It is usually represented by a_{1} (or) a. For example, in the sequence 6,13,20,27,34, . . . . the first term is 6. i.e., a_{1}=6 (or) a=6.
Common Difference of Arithmetic Progression:
We know that an AP is a sequence where each term, except the first term, is obtained by adding a fixed number to its previous term. Here, the “fixed number” is called the “common difference” and is denoted by 'd' i.e., if the first term is a_{1}, then: the second term is a_{1}+d, the third term is a_{1}+d+d = a_{1}+2d, and the fourth term is a_{1}+2d+d= a_{1}+3d and so on. For example, in the sequence 6,13,20,27,34,. . . , each term, except the first term, is obtained by addition of 7 to its previous term. Thus, the common difference is, d=7. In general, the common difference is the difference between every two successive terms of an AP. Thus, the formula for calculating the common difference of an AP is: d = a_{n}  a_{n1}
Nth Term of Arithmetic Progression
The general term (or) n^{th} term of an AP whose first term is 'a' and the common difference is 'd' is found by the formula a_{n}=a+(n1)d. For example, to find the general term (or) n^{th} term of the sequence 6,13,20,27,34,. . . ., we substitute the first term, a_{1}=6, and the common difference, d=7 in the formula for the n^{th} term formula. Then we get, a_{n }=a+(n1)d = 6+(n1)7 = 6+7n7 = 7n 1. Thus, the general term (or) n^{th} term of this sequence is: a_{n} = 7n1. But what is the use of finding the general term of an AP? Let us see.
AP Formula for General Term
We know that to find a term, we can add 'd' to its previous term. For example, if we have to find the 6^{th} term of 6,13,20,27,34, . . ., we can just add d=7 to the 5^{th} term which is 34. 6^{th }term = 5^{th} term + 7 = 34+7 = 41. But what if we have to find the 102^{nd }term? Isn’t it difficult to calculate it manually? In this case, we can just substitute n=102 (and also a=6 and d=7 in the formula of the n^{th} term of an AP). Then we get:
a_{n} = a+(n1)d
a_{102} = 6+(1021)7
a_{102} = 6+(101)7
a_{102} = 713
Therefore, the 102^{nd} term of the given sequence 6,13,20,27,34,.... is 713. Thus, the general term (or) n^{th} term of an AP is referred to as the arithmetic sequence explicit formula and can be used to find any term of the AP without finding its previous term.
The following table shows some AP examples and the first term, the common difference, and the general term in each case.
Arithmetic Progression  First Term  Common Difference 
General Term n^{th} term 

AP  a  d  a_{n}= a + (n1)d 
91,81,71,61,51, . . .  91  10  10n+101 
π,2π,3π,4π,5π,…  π  π  πn 
–√3, −2√3, −3√3, −4√3–,… 
√3  √3  √3 n 
Sum of Arithmetic Progression
Consider an arithmetic progression (AP) whose first term is a_{1} (or) a and the common difference is d.
 The sum of first n terms of an arithmetic progression when the n^{th} term is NOT known is S_{n }= (n/2)[2a+(n1) d]
 The sum of first n terms of an arithmetic progression when the n^{th} term, a_{n} is known is S_{n }= n/2[a_{1}+a_{n}]
Example: Mr. Kevin earns $400,000 per annum and his salary increases by $50,000 per annum. Then how much does he earn at the end of the first 3 years?
Solution: The amount earned by Mr. Kevin for the first year is, a = 4,00,000. The increment per annum is, d = 50,000. We have to calculate his earnings in the 3 years. So n=3.
Substituting these values in the AP sum formula,
S_{n}=n/2[2a+(n1) d]
S_{n}= 3/2(2(400000)+(31)(50000))
= 3/2 (800000+100000)
= 3/2 (900000)
= 1350000
He earned $1,350,000 in 3 years.
We can get the same answer by general thinking also as follows: The annual amount earned by Mr. Kevin in the first three years is as follows. This could be calculated manually as n is a smaller value. But the above formulas are useful when n is a larger value.
Derivation of AP Sum Formula
Arithmetic progression is a progression in which every term after the first is obtained by adding a constant value, called the common difference (d). So, to find the n^{th} term of an arithmetic progression, we know a_{n} = a_{1} + (n – 1)d. a_{1 }is the first term, a_{1} + d is the second term, the third term is a_{1} + 2d, and so on. For finding the sum of the arithmetic series, S_{n}, we start with the first term and successively add the common difference.
S_{n} = a_{1} + (a_{1} + d) + (a_{1} + 2d) + … + [a_{1} + (n–1)d].
We can also start with the n^{th} term and successively subtract the common difference, so,
S_{n} = a_{n} + (a_{n} – d) + (a_{n} – 2d) + … + [a_{n} – (n–1)d].
Thus the sum of the arithmetic sequence could be found in either of the ways. However, on adding those two equations together, we get
S_{n} = a_{1} + (a_{1} + d) + (a_{1} + 2d) + … + [a_{1} + (n–1)d]
S_{n} = a_{n} + (a_{n} – d) + (a_{n} – 2d) + … + [a_{n} – (n–1)d]
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2S_{n} = (a_{1} + a_{n}) + (a_{1} + a_{n}) + (a_{1} + a_{n}) + … + [a_{1} + a_{n}].
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Notice all the d terms are cancelled out. So,
2S_{n} = n (a_{1} + a_{n})
⇒ S_{n} = [n(a_{1} + a_{n})]/2  (1)
By substituting a_{n} = a_{1} + (n – 1)d into the last formula, we have
S_{n} = n/2 [a_{1} + a_{1} + (n – 1)d] ...Simplifying
S_{n} = n/2 [2a_{1} + (n – 1)d]  (2)
These two formulas (1) and (2) help us to find the sum of an arithmetic series quickly. We can see the above derivation in the figure below.
Differences Between Arithmetic Progression and Geometric Progression
The following table explains the differences between arithmetic and geometric progression:
Arithmetic progression  Geometric progression 

Arithmetic progression is a series in which the new term is the difference between two consecutive terms such that they have a constant value. 
Geometric progression is defined as the series in which the new term is obtained by multiplying the two consecutive terms such that they have a constant factor. 
The series is identified as an arithmetic progression with the help of a common difference between consecutive terms.  The series is identified as a geometric progression with the help of a common ratio between consecutive terms. 
The consecutive terms vary linearly.  The consecutive terms vary exponentially. 
Important Notes on Arithmetic Progression
 An AP is a list of numbers in which each term is obtained by adding a fixed number to the preceding number.
 a is represented as the first term, d is a common difference, a_{n} as the nth term, and n as the number of terms.
 In general, AP can be represented as a, a+d, a+2d, a+3d,..
 the n^{th} term of an AP can be obtained as a_{n }= a + (n−1)d
 The sum of an AP can be obtained as either s_{n}=n/2[2a+(n−1)d]
 The graph of an AP is a straight line with the slope as the common difference.
 The common difference doesn't need to be positive always. For example, in the sequence, 16,8,0,−8,−16,.... the common difference is negative (d = 8  16 = 0  8 = 8  0 = 16  (8) =... = 8).
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Arithmetic Progression Examples

Example 1: Find the general term of the arithmetic progression 3, (1/2), 2…
Solution:
The given sequence is 3, (1/2),2…
Here, the first term is a=3, and the common difference is, d = (1/2) (3) = (1/2)+3 = 5/2
By AP formulas, the general term of an AP is calculated by the formula:
a_{n} = a+(n1)d
a_{n} = 3 +(n1) 5/2
= 3+ (5/2)n  5/2
= 5n/2  11/2
Therefore, the general term of the given AP is:
Answer: a_{n} = 5n/2  11/2

Example 2: Which term of the AP 3, 8, 13, 18,... is 78?
Solution:
The given sequence is 3,8,13,18,...
Here the first term is a=3, and the common difference is, d = 83= 138=...=5
Let us assume that the n^{th} term is,
a_{n}=78
Substitute all these values in the general term of an arithmetic progression:
a_{n} = a+(n1)d
78 = 3+(n1)5
78 = 3+5n5
78 = 5n 2
80 = 5n
16 = nAnswer: ∴ 78 is the 16^{th} term

Example 3: Find the sum of the first 5 terms of the arithmetic progression whose first term is 3 and 5^{th} term is 11.
Solution: We have a_{1} = a = 3 and a_{5} = 11 and n = 5.
Using the AP formula for the sum of n terms, we have
S_{n} = (n/2) (a + a_{n})
⇒ S_{5} = (5/2) (3 + 11)
= (5/2) × 14
= 35
Answer: The required sum of the first 5 terms is 35.
FAQs on Arithmetic Progression
What is the Meaning of Arithmetic Progression in Maths?
A sequence of numbers that has a common difference between any two consecutive numbers is called an arithmetic progression (A.P.). The example of A.P. is 3,6,9,12,15,18,21, … In simple words, we can say that an arithmetic progression is a sequence of numbers where the difference between each consecutive term is the same.
What is AP formula?
Here are the AP formulas corresponding to the AP a, a + d, a + 2d, a + 3d, . . . a + (n  1)d:
 The formula to find the nth term is: a_{n} = a + (n – 1) × d
 The formula to find the sum of n terms is S_{n} = n/2[2a + (n − 1) × d]
What is the Sum of N Terms of the Arithmetic Progression Formula?
The sum of first n terms of an arithmetic progression when the nth term is NOT known is S_{n} = n/2[2a+(n1)d]. The sum of the first n terms of an arithmetic progression when the nth term, a_{n} is known is S_{n} = n/2[a_{1}+a_{n}].
How to Find the Sum of Arithmetic Progression?
To find the sum of arithmetic progression, we have to know the first term, the number of terms, and the common difference between consecutive terms. Then the formula to find the sum of an arithmetic progression is S_{n} = n/2[2a + (n − 1) × d] where, a = first term of arithmetic progression, n = number of terms in the arithmetic progression and d = common difference.
How to Find Common Difference in Arithmetic Progression?
The common difference is the difference between each consecutive term in an arithmetic sequence. Therefore, you can say that the formula to find the common difference of an arithmetic sequence is: d = a_{n}  a_{n  1}, where a_{n} is the n^{th} term in the sequence, and a_{n  1} is the previous term in the sequence.
How to Find First Term in Arithmetic Progression?
If we know ‘d'(common difference) and any term (nth term) in the progression then we can find ‘a'(first term). Example: 2,4,6,8,…….
n^{th} term(of arithmetic progression) = a+ (n1)d, a = first term of arithmetic progression, n = number of terms in the arithmetic progression and d = common difference.
Here, a = 2, d = 4 – 2 = 6 – 4 = 2,
If 5th term is 10 and d=2, then
a_{5}= a + 4d; 10 = a + 4(2); 10 = a + 8; a = 2.
What is the Difference Between Arithmetic Sequence and Arithmetic Progression?
Arithmetic Sequence/Arithmetic Series is the sum of the elements of Arithmetic Progression. Arithmetic Progression is any number of sequences within any range that gives a common difference.
How to Find Number of Terms in Arithmetic Progression?
The number of terms in an arithmetic progression can be simply found by the division of the difference between the last and first terms by the common difference, and then add 1.
What are the Types of Progressions in Maths?
There are three types of progressions in Maths. They are:
 Arithmetic Progression (AP)
 Geometric Progression (GP)
 Harmonic Progression (HP)
Where is Arithmetic Progression Used?
A reallife application of arithmetic progression is seen when you take a taxi. Once you ride a taxi you will be charged an initial rate and then a per mile or per kilometer charge. This shows an arithmetic sequence that for every kilometer you will be charged a certain fixed (constant) rate plus the initial rate.
What is Nth Term in Arithmetic Progression?
The 'n^{th}' term in an AP is a formula with 'n' in it which enables you to find any term of a sequence without having to go up from one term to the next. 'n' stands for the term number so to find the 50^{th} term we would just substitute 50 in the formula a_{n} = a+ (n1)d in place of 'n'.
How to Find d in Arithmetic Progression?
To find d in an arithmetic progression, we take the difference between any two consecutive terms of the AP. It is always a term minus its previous term.
How do you Solve Arithmetic Progression Problems?
The following formulas help to solve arithmetic progression problems:
 Common difference of an AP: d = a_{n}  a_{n1}.
 n^{th} term of an AP: a_{n} = a + (n  1)d
 Sum of n terms of an AP: S_{n }= n/2(2a+(n1)d)
where, a = first term of arithmetic progression, n = number of terms in the arithmetic progression, and d = common difference.
What is Infinite Arithmetic Progression?
When the number of terms in an AP is infinite, we call it an infinite arithmetic progression. For example, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, ... is an infinite AP; etc.
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