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The two simplest sequences to work with are arithmetic and geometric sequences. An arithmetic sequence goes from one term to the next by always adding (or subtracting) the same value. For instance, 2, 5, 8, 11, 14,... and 7, 3, –1, –5,... are arithmetic, since you add 3 and subtract 4, respectively, at each step. A geometric sequence goes from one term to the next by always multiplying (or dividing) by the same value. So 1, 2, 4, 8, 16,... and 81, 27, 9, 3, 1, 1/3,... are geometric, since you multiply by2 and divide by 3, respectively, at each step.

The number added (or subtracted) at each stage of an arithmetic sequence is called the "common difference" d, because if you subtract (find the difference of) successive terms, you'll always get this common value. The number multiplied (or divided) at each stage of a geometric sequence is called the "common ratio" r, because if you divide (find the ratio of) successive terms, you'll always get this common value