Let us look (again) at the example

Using other techniques it is not hard to see that the solutions are of the form

We want to illustrate how to find power series solutions for a second-order linear differential equation.

The generic form of a power series is

We have to determine the right choice for the coefficients (

As in other techniques for solving differential equations, once we have a "guess" for the solutions, we plug it into the differential equation.
Recall from the previous section that

Plugging this information into the differential equation we obtain:

Our next goal is to simplify this expression such that only one summation sign "" remains. The obstacle we encounter is that the powers of both sums are different, *t*^{n-2} for the first sum and *t*^{n} for the second sum. We make them the same by shifting the index of the first sum by 2 units to obtain

Now we can combine the two sums as follows:

and factor out

Next we need a result you probably already know in the case of polynomials: A polynomial is identically equal to zero if and only if

**Theorem.** A power series is identically equal to zero if and only if **all** of its coefficients are equal to zero.

This theorem applies directly to our example: The power series on the left is identically equal to zero, consequently all of its coefficients are equal to 0:

Solving these equations for the "highest index" *n*+2, we can rewrite
as

These equations are known as the

Recall that

in particular

in particular

How can we evaluate the next coefficient *a*_{2}? Let us read our recurrence relations for the case *n*=0:

Reading off the recurrence relation for

Continue ad nauseam:

What do we know about the solutions to our differential equation at this point? They look like this:

Of course the power series inside the parentheses are the familiar functions
and :

so we have found the general solution of the differential equation (with

The series solutions method is mainly used to find power series solutions of differential equations whose solutions can not be written in terms of familiar functions such as polynomials, exponential or trigonometric functions. This means that in general you will not be able to perform the last few steps of what we just did (less worries!), all we can try to do is to come up with a general expression for the coefficients of the power series solutions.

As another introductory example, let's find the solution to the initial value problem

The generic form of a power series is

We have to determine the right choice for the coefficients (

Start by plugging this "guess" into the differential equation.
Recall from the previous section that

and

Plugging this information into the differential equation we obtain:

Our next goal is to simplify this expression such that only one summation sign "" remains. The obstacle we encounter is that the powers of the three sums are different, *t*^{n-2} for the first sum *t*^{n-1} for the second sum and *t*^{n} for the third. We make them the same by shifting the index of the first two sums to obtain

Now we can combine the sums as follows:

and factor out

Since the power series on the left is identically equal to zero, all of its coefficients are equal to zero:

Solving these equations for the "highest index" *n*+2, we can rewrite
as

These recurrence relations contain all the information about the coefficients we need.

Recall that *y*(0)=*a*_{0} and *y*'(0)=*a*_{1}, so our initial conditions imply that *a*_{0}=1 and *a*_{1}=2.

Reading off the recurrence relations we can compute the next coefficients:

Can you see a pattern evolving for the numerators? Going from

This implies that

This implies that our solution has the power series:

We can rewrite this to retrieve the solution in more familiar form:

Isn't Math fun?

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