# Engaging students: Infinite geometric series

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Brendan Gunnoe. His topic, from Precalculus: infinite geometric series.

Curriculum:

Students can use the formula for an infinite geometric series to discover the formula for a finite geometric series. The teacher would start by posing the question “Can we use the infinite geometric series to come up with a formula for the finite version?” and writing out a series like so

$\displaystyle \sum_{i=0}^\infty ar^i = ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n + ar^{n+1} + \dots$

Next, the instructor could ask questions like “If we’re looking for the sum up to the nth term, where do we need to chop off the terms to get what we want?,” “Does the ending part look familiar?”, and “How can we rewrite the chopped off part so that it looks like what we already know?”. The teacher guides the students into manipulating the formula to get this result

$\displaystyle \sum_{i=0}^\infty ar^i = ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n + ar^{n+1} + \dots$

$\displaystyle \sum_{i=0}^\infty ar^i = ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n + \sum_{j=n+1}^\infty ar^j$

$ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n = \displaystyle \sum_{i=0}^\infty ar^i - \sum_{j=n+1}^\infty ar^j$

The teacher notes that the last sum can be simplified to make it easier to see by doing a substitution of $k = j -n-1$. Adjusting the bounds and substituting in the new index, we get

$ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n = \displaystyle \sum_{i=0}^\infty ar^i - \sum_{k=0}^\infty ar^{n+1+k}$

$= \displaystyle \sum_{i=0}^\infty ar^i - \sum_{k=0}^\infty ar^{n+1}r^k$

$= \displaystyle \sum_{i=0}^\infty ar^i - r^{n+1} \sum_{k=0}^\infty ar^k$

Note that the two sums are identical, besides the index name, so we can factor and get

$ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n = a(1-r^{n+1}) \displaystyle \sum_{i=0}^\infty r^i$

Lastly, we utilize our formula for an infinite geometric series and get

$ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n = a(1-r^{n+1}) \displaystyle \frac{1}{1-r}$

$ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n = \displaystyle a\frac{1-r^{n+1}}{1-r}$

$ar^0 + ar^1 + ar^2 + \dots + ar^{n-1} + ar^n = \displaystyle a\frac{r^{n+1}-1}{r-1}$

Although the infinite series requires $|r|<1$ , the finite version works for all real $r$. Although the formal proof that this is the correct formula might be beyond the scope of the intended class, it can easily be done with induction.

Technology:

Sal Khan, one of recent history’s most well-known STEM educators, has a fantastic video that shows the relationship between a fractal known as the Koch snowflake and the geometric series. Khan works through the derivation of the formulas for the perimeter and area of an the nth­ iteration of the Koch snowflake. It turns out that both the area and perimeters for each iteration can be expressed using a geometric series, but the perimeter diverges to infinity while the area converges. Such a result makes sense intuitively since you can fit every iteration inside of a finite box that is slightly larger than the snowflake, and thus bounding the area, yet it would require an infinitely long wire to go around the perimeter of the limiting shape. Since fractals are not normally included in the math curriculum, showing how math can be used in interesting and different ways to solve problem can be very engaging for students.

Culture:

There is a strong connection between geometric series, fractals, and self-similarity, all with a relatively simple nature. Fractals have been used in architecture and art for a very long time. Examples of self-similarity seen in ancient cultures include Hindu temples, with their structure being composed of self-similar units, and Islamic geometric art found in the domes of mosques.

Since the invention of the computer in the mid-20th century, more detailed and intricate digital art has been made popular. Although not exactly a geometric series, the Mandelbrot set acts very much like a fractal and was among the first of the uses of a computer to investigate the properties of fractals. It has been used in many ways to make animations, photos and other digital arts.

Another link between fractals and art can be found in the Legend of Zelda games. One of the iconic symbols of the game is called the triforce, which is an equilateral triangle that’s been cut into 4 smaller triangles with the middle piece removed. Such a shape is the first iteration of a fractal known as the Sierpinski triangle. As you can see, fractals can be found in all kinds of art, coming in many different forms.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal_art

# Engaging students: Geometric sequences

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Victor Acevedo. His topic, from Precalculus: geometric sequences.

How has this topic appeared in pop culture (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.)?

2048 is a fun game on mobile phones and online that can help introduce the concept of geometric sequences to students. The game is based on the powers of 2 and trying to reach 2^11 (or 2048). Each time two matching tiles are combined it creates the next power of 2. At first glance, it may seem that you are just adding the two tiles, so it doesn’t look like a geometric sequence. The geometric sequence shows up when you look at the terms in the sequence being each new tile that is introduced. For example, the 8 tile comes from two 4 tiles, and each 4 tile comes from two 2 tiles, but the 8 tile is still the third new tile making it the third term in the sequence. There can be a discussion about how many tiles are needed to create the first several terms in the sequence up until 2048.

https://play2048.co/

What interesting (i.e., uncontrived) word problems using this topic can your students do now?

A fun problem that involves geometric sequences is the doubling penny problem. You are asked to decide whether you would rather have lump sum of $1,000,000 given to you upfront or take an offer that involves doubling pennies for the next 30 days. The second offer would involve you taking a single penny on the first day, then doubling that amount each day until the 30th day. At first it seems like a reasonable choice to take the lump sum of$1,000,000, but you have to remember that we are dealing with and exponential or geometric growth in the second offer. On the 30th day you would receive 2^30 pennies which would be $107,374,182.40. That number doesn’t even include the sum of all the other days you were receiving pennies. This would be a great way to explore that difference between linear (or arithmetic) and exponential (or geometric) growth. How have different cultures throughout time used this topic in their society? The paradox of Achilles and the tortoise is an example where geometric sequences are applied with philosophical thought. Achilles is racing a tortoise. Achilles gives the tortoise a lead because he believes that he is much faster than the tortoise. The paradox arises from the fact that Achilles will have to try and close the gap between him and tortoise while the tortoise keeps moving forward. By having to always get to where the tortoise has been, Achilles can’t catch up. A simplified way of seeing this is by imagining the tortoise already being at the finish line and Achilles just having to close the gap in between him and the tortoise. He does so in a way that cuts the distance between him and the tortoise in half every minute. By doing so, Achilles will never actually catch up since there is always more distance to travel. In this case the common ratio for the geometric sequence would ½ and the end goal would be 0 but it could never be attained. # Engaging students: Arithmetic sequences In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place. I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course). This student submission comes from my former student Danielle Pope. Her topic, from Precalculus: arithmetic sequences. How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science? In the future, the topic of arithmetic sequences will be built upon by introducing another sequence, the geometric sequence. A geometric sequence is just a sequence of multiples instead of increasing by a constant. The next topic introduced will be finding the sum of a sequence of numbers. This will be introduced as a series. The summation symbol will also be introduced to kids and they will learn that new notation. Summations will bring along many formulas for finding the leading coefficient and will show up later in Calculus 2 classes when talking about convergence and divergence of series. Another one of the things that kids will always be doing with sequences and series is finding the general form of a given sequence or series. Through school, this idea will never change the sequence and series will just get harder to identify. What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic? (You might want to consult Math Through The Ages.) An arithmetic sequence is a set of numbers that have a constant difference between each term. One of the main people that come up when researching these sequences is Carl Friedrich Gauss. Many math-loving people know him as the “Prince of mathematicians”. He is famous for coming up with the equations to solve the sum of an arithmetic sequence. This comes as no surprise that he came up with this formula. The surprising thing about this realization is that he made it at an age young enough to still be in grade school. Stories say that Gauss was asked to solve for the sum on the board in grade school and used the formula of M ( M + 1 ) / 2 to solve for the correct answer. This just goes to show that anyone can, in fact, contribute to the greater good of mathematics at any age. How have different cultures throughout time used this topic in their society? One of the first civilizations that utilized sequences was the Egyptians. They used the sequence of multiples of 2 to do their multiplication. The basic sequence is 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, … and we are trying to solve 24 x 13 with the process pictured below. The process behind this is to write the multiple of 2 sequences down the left side of the paper until you reach the largest multiple of 2 without going over the second number being multiplied, in this case, 13. Once that is done set the first term on the right side equal to the first number being multiplied, in this case, 24. Next, multiply the right side by 4 until you get the same amount of terms on the left side. Lastly find the sum of numbers on the left that add to 13, which are 1, 4, and 8. Add the corresponding multiples from the side, 24 + 96 + 192 = 312. The right side sum of the corresponding numbers checked on the left gives the product of the original problem, i.e. 312. This trick is cool to show just on its own but it’s also cool because it uses something as simple as a specific list of numbers aka a sequence of numbers. References http://www.softschools.com/facts/scientists/carl_friedrich_gauss_facts/827/ https://rabungapalgebraiii.wikispaces.com/Arithmetic+Sequences+and+Series Click to access egyptian_arithmetic.pdf # Engaging students: Finite geometric series In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place. I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course). This student submission comes from my former student Caroline Wick. Her topic, from Precalculus: finite geometric series. What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic? Finite geometric series was a concept that began over 4500 year ago in ancient Egypt. The Egyptians used this method of finite geometric series mainly to “solve problems dealing with areas of fields and volumes of granaries” but used it for many other uses too, including the pyramids and math problems similar to those one might find on a STAAR test today (see D1, and F1). There are seven houses; in each house, there are 7 cats; each cat kills seven mice; each mouse has eaten 7 grains of barley; each grain would have produced 7 hekat. What is the sum of all the enumerated things? Years passed and finite geometric series were not revisited until around 350 BC by the Greeks, namely Archimedes, who came up with a solution to the math problem V=1/3Ah by finite calculations instead of limits. In addition, the idea that a finite sum could be procured from an infinite series was created in what is called the “Achilles Paradox” (D2, F2). Years after this came Mathematicians in the middle ages, like Richard Swineshead or Nicole Oresme, who aided the world by further refining these series. This eventually led to the renowned Physicist Isaac Newton to “discover the geometric series” after studying mathematician John Wallis’s method of “finding area under a hyperbola” (F1). We can attribute almost all of what we know about geometric series’ to these fine gentlemen above, and they can only attribute what they know from the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. How has this topic appeared in pop culture? In 2002, PBS came out with a kids’ TV show called CyberChase, which is an entertaining cartoon about a bunch of kids who get pulled into “Cyber Space” to fight the bad guy, named Hacker, all while discovering and using different mathematical concepts that they learned along the way. Eleven seasons have passed since the shows beginning and it is still going strong, but one episode that still sticks out to me was their version of explaining geometric series to kids. The episode was called “Double trouble” and was the 9th episode of the second season. The specific geometric series involved in the episode was doubling, but the “real world” clip at the end stood out more vividly to me. After losing a chess game, the main character has to decide between paying the winner$5.00 or paying one penny for the first space on a chess board, then two pennies on the second, then four on the third, and continuing to double the previous number for every space on the entire chess board. Since the main character thought pennies were less, he decided on the second option, only realize after that he would have to pay way more than $5.00 in the end. This helped me understand the most basic geometric series when I was a kid, and has stuck with me to this day, so I am certain that it has and can stick in other students’ brains as well. Here is the clip from the show: How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in math or science? The idea of finite geometric series is typically lightly introduced around students’ sophomore year of high school when they take geometry, but it is not really expanded upon/explained until students reach Pre-Calculus. The specific TEKS related to this topic are located under Pre-Calculus in (5), (A)-(E) (Source B1). The concept is brought up again in Math Models with Applications and is used for understanding interest on a balance over a period of time, or “loan amortization.” The ideas can also be used to help understand difference equations that involve heat and cooling over a period of time, and how to predict what the temperature might be in the future, which is a concept that is important in the realm of science too. When students get to college, finite geometric series are expanded upon even more when they take Calculus classes, and they will learn how to prove a series is finite using induction when they get to their Discrete Classes and Real Analysis classes. In the business realm, they will have to use it to predict monetary sums regarding interest and possible growth in a company, so likely no matter where a student ends up, s/he will have to use this important mathematical concept everywhere. # Engaging students: Geometric sequences In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place. I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course). This student submission comes from my former student Zachery Hasegawa. His topic, from Precalculus: geometric sequences. How has this topic appeared in pop culture? (movies, TV, current music, video games, etc.) Geometric sequences appear frequently in pop culture. One example that immediately comes to mind is the movie The Happening starring Mark Wahlberg and Zoe Deschanel. In the movie, there is a scene where a gentleman is trying to distract another woman from the chaos happening outside the jeep they’re traveling in. He says to her “If I start out with a penny on the first day of a 31 day month and kept doubling it each day, so I’d have .01 on day 1, .02 on day 2, etc. How much money will I have at the end of the month?” The woman franticly spouts out a wrong answer and the gentleman responds “You’d have over ten million dollars by the end of the month”. The car goes on to crash just after that scene but as a matter of fact, you’d have exactly$10,737,418.20 at the end of the 31-day month.  This is an example of a geometric sequence because you start out with 0.01 and to get to the next term (day), you would multiply by a common ratio of 2.

What interesting things can you say about the people who contributed to the discovery and/or the development of this topic?

Geometric sequences are popularly found in Book IX of Elements by Euclid, dating back to 300 B.C.  Euclid of Alexandria, a famous Greek mathematician also considered the “Father of Geometry” was the main contributor of this theory.  Geometric sequences and series are one of the easiest examples of infinite series with finite sums.  Geometric sequences and series have played an important role in the early development of calculus, and have continued to be a main case of study in the convergence of series.  Geometric sequences and series are used a lot in mathematics, and they are very important in physics, engineering, biology, economics, computer science, queuing theory, and even finance.

How can technology (specifically Khan Academy/YouTube) be used to effectively engage students with this topic:

I really like the video that Khan Academy does on YouTube about Geometric Sequences.  This particular video is a very good introduction to Geometric Sequences because he explains the difference between Geometric Sequences and Series, which I thought to be helpful because I always got the two confused with each other.  Mr. Khan starts out by explaining what exactly a Geometric Sequence is. He describes a Geometric sequence as “A progression of numbers where each successive number is a fixed multiple of the one before it.” He goes on to give numerical examples to specifically show you what he means.  He explains that a1 is typically our first term; a2 is the second term, etc.  He then explains that to get from a1 to a2, you will multiply a1 by the “common ratio” usually represented by “r. For example, “3, 12, 48, 192” is a finite geometric sequence where the common ratio, r, is 4 because to go from 3 to 12 or from 12 to 48, you multiply by 4. He goes on to explain that a Geometric Sequence is a list (sequence) of numbers (terms) that are being multiplied by a common ratio and that a Geometric Series is the sum of the terms (numbers) in the Geometric Sequence.  Using the same numbers as from the Geometric Sequence above, the geometric series is “3+12+48+192”.

References:

# Arithmetic and Geometric Series: Index

I’m using the Twelve Days of Christmas (and perhaps a few extra days besides) to do something that I should have done a long time ago: collect past series of posts into a single, easy-to-reference post. The following posts formed my series on how I remind students about Taylor series. I often use this series in a class like Differential Equations, when Taylor series are needed but my class has simply forgotten about what a Taylor series is and why it’s important.

Part 1: Deriving the formulas for the $n$th term of arithmetic and geometric sequences.

Part 2: Pedagogical thoughts on conceptual barriers that students often face when encountering sequences and series.

Part 3: The story of how young Carl Frederich Gauss, at age 10, figured out how to add the integers from 1 to 100 in his head.

Part 4: Deriving the formula for an arithmetic series.

Part 5: Deriving the formula for an arithmetic series, using mathematical induction. Also, extensions to other series.

Part 6: Deriving the formula for an arithmetic series, using telescoping series. Also, extensions to other series.

Part 7: Pedagogical thoughts on assessing students’ depth of understanding the formula for an arithmetic series.

Part 8: Deriving the formula for a finite geometric series.

Part 9: Infinite geometric series and Xeno’s paradox.

Part 10: Deriving the formula for an infinite geometric series.

Part 11: Applications of infinite geometric series in future mathematics courses.

Part 12: Other commonly-arising infinite series.

# Engaging students: Geometric sequences

In my capstone class for future secondary math teachers, I ask my students to come up with ideas for engaging their students with different topics in the secondary mathematics curriculum. In other words, the point of the assignment was not to devise a full-blown lesson plan on this topic. Instead, I asked my students to think about three different ways of getting their students interested in the topic in the first place.

I plan to share some of the best of these ideas on this blog (after asking my students’ permission, of course).

This student submission comes from my former student Michelle McKay. Her topic, from Precalculus: geometric sequences.

A.     What interesting word problems using this topic can your student do now?

In the movie Pay it Forward (2000), the young boy Trevor has the following idea: He can make the world a better place by encouraging people to help others.

If Trevor helps three people and asks that they help three other people instead of repaying him, how can we represent this as a sequence? Write the first 5 terms.  (Hint: Let Trevor be represented by the number 1.)

What is a formula that can give us the amount of people affected after $n$ terms?

When will 177,147 people be affected? 14,348,907 people?

B.     How can this topic be used in your students’ future courses in mathematics or science?

For science classes, geometric sequences can be used to represent data collected for exponential growth or decay of a population or solution over time. Below are some examples of how geometric sequences can appear in a future science class.

Biology: A researcher is determining whether a certain species of mouse is thriving in its environment or becoming endangered. The total population of the mouse is calculated each year. What conclusions can you draw from the data below?

 Year Population 1 240 2 720 3 2,160 4 6,480 5 19,440

Chemistry: A student has been monitoring the amount of Na in a solution. Based off the data collected, when will the Na in the solution be negligible?

 Day Na % 1 95% 2 42.75% 3 19.24% 4 8.65%

Physics: Students in a physics class measure the following heights of a ball that has been dropped from 10 feet in the air. Each measured height is taken at the highest point in the ball’s trajectory.

 10 8 6.4 5.12 4.096

A.     Application of geometric sequences.

The following prompt can be used as a short response or in-class debate:

A student is standing a distance of x meters away from the front of the classroom. If he decreases the distance between himself and the front of the classroom by half each time he moves, will he ever reach the front of the classroom? What if instead of a student, we use a point on a line? Justify your answer.

# Formula for an infinite geometric series (Part 10)

I conclude this series of posts by considering the formula for an infinite geometric series. Somewhat surprisingly (to students), the formula for an infinite geometric series is actually easier to remember than the formula for a finite geometric series.

One way of deriving the formula parallels the derivation for a finite geometric series. If $a_1, a_2, a_3, \dots$ are the first terms of an infinite geometric sequence, let

$S = a_1 + a_2 + a_3 + \dots$

Recalling the formula for an geometric sequence, we know that

$a_2 = a_1 r$

$a_3 = a_1 r^2$

$\vdots$

Substituting, we find

$S = a_1 + a_1 r+ a_1 r^2 \dots$

Once again, we multiply both sides by $-r$.

$-rS = -a_1r - a_1 r^2- a_1 r^3 \dots$

Next, we add the two equations. Notice that almost everything cancels on the right-hand side… except for the leading term $a_1$.  (Unlike yesterday’s post, there is no “last” term that remains since the series is infinite.) Therefore,

$S - rS = a_1$

$S(1-r) = a_1$

$S = \displaystyle \frac{a_1}{1-r}$

A quick pedagogical note: I find that this derivation “sells” best to students when I multiply by $-r$ and add, as opposed to multiplying by $r$ and subtracting.

The above derivation is helpful for remembering the formula but glosses over an extremely important detail: not every infinite geometric series converges. For example, if $a_1 = 1$ and $r = 2$, then the infinite geometric series becomes

$1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + \dots$,

which clearly does not have a finite answer. We say that this series diverges. In other words, trying to evaluate this sum makes as much sense as trying to divide a number by zero: there is no answer.

That said, it can be shown that, as long as $-1 < r < 1$, then the above geometric series converges, so that

$a_1 + a_1 r + a_1 r^2 + \dots = \displaystyle \frac{a_1}{1-r}$

The formal proof requires the use of the formula for a finite geometric series:

$a_1 + a_1 r + a_1 r^2 + \dots + a_1 r^{n-1} = \displaystyle \frac{a_1(1-r^n)}{1-r}$

We then take the limit as $n \to \infty$:

$\displaystyle \lim_{n \to \infty} a_1 + a_1 r + a_1 r^2 + \dots + a_1 r^{n-1} = \displaystyle \lim_{n \to \infty} \frac{a_1(1-r^n)}{1-r}$

$a_1 + a_1 r + a_1 r^2 + \dots = \displaystyle \lim_{n \to \infty} \frac{a_1(1-r^n)}{1-r}$

On the right-hand side, the only piece that contains an $n$ is the term $r^n$. If $-1 < r < 1$, then $r^n \to 0$ as $n \to \infty$. (This limit fails, however, if $r \ge 1$ or $r \le -1$.) Therefore,

$a_1 + a_1 r + a_1 r^2 + \dots = \displaystyle \lim_{n \to \infty} \frac{a_1(1-0)}{1-r} = \displaystyle \frac{a_1}{1-r}$

# Pedagogical thoughts about sequences and series (Part 2)

After yesterday’s post about arithmetic and geometric sequences, I’d like to contribute some thoughts about teaching this topic, based on my own experience over the years.

1. Some students really resist the subscript notation $a_n$ when encountering it for the first time. To allay these concerns, I usually ask my students, “Why can’t we just label the terms in the sequence as $a$, $b$, $c$, and so on?” They usually can answer: what if there are more than 26 terms? That’s the right answer, and so the $a_n$ is used so that we’re not limited to just the letters of the English alphabet.

Another way of selling the $a_n$ notation to students is by telling them that it’s completely analogous to the $f(x)$ notation used more commonly in Algebra II and Precalculus. For a “regular” function $f(x)$, the number $x$ is chosen from the domain of real numbers. For a sequence $a_n$, the number $n$ is chosen from the domain of positive (or nonnegative) integers.

2. The formulas in Part 1 of this series (pardon the pun) only apply to arithmetic and geometric sequences, respectively. In other words, if the sequence is neither arithmetic nor geometric, then the above formulas should not be used.

While this is easy to state, my observation is that some students panic a bit when working with sequences and tend to use these formulas on homework and test questions even when the sequence is specified to be something else besides these two types of sequences. For example, consider the following problem:

Find the 10th term of the sequence $1, 4, 9, 16, \dots$

I’ve known pretty bright students who immediately saw that the first term was $1$ and the difference between the first and second terms was $3$, and so they answered that the tenth term is $1 + (10-1)\times 3 = 28$… even though the sequence was never claimed to be arithmetic.

I’m guessing that these arithmetic and geometric sequences are emphasized so much in class that some students are conditioned to expect that every series is either arithmetic or geometric, forgetting (especially on tests) that there are sequences other than these two.

3. Regarding arithmetic sequences, sometimes it helps by giving students a visual picture by explicitly make the connection between the terms of an arithmetic sequence and the points of a line. For example, consider the arithmetic sequence which begins

$13, 16, 19, 22, \dots$

The first term is $13$, the second term is $16$, and so on. Now imagine plotting the points $(1,13)$, $(2,16)$, $(3,19)$, and $(4,22)$ on the coordinate plane. Clearly the points lie on a straight line. This is not surprising since there’s a common difference between terms. Moreover, the slope of the line is $3$. This matches the common difference of the arithmetic sequence.

4. In ordinary English, the words sequence and series are virtually synonymous. For example, if someone says either, “a sequence of unusual events” or “a series of unusual events,” the speaker means pretty much the same thing

However, in mathematics, the words sequence and series have different meanings. In mathematics, an example of an arithmetic sequence are the terms

$1, 3, 5, 7, 9, \dots, 99$

However, an example of an arithmetic series would be

$1 + 3 + 5 + 7 + 9 + \dots + 99$

In other words, a sequence provides the individual terms, while a series is a sum of the terms.

When teaching this topic, I make sure to take a minute to emphasize that the words sequence and series will mean something different in my class, even though they basically mean the same thing in ordinary English.