I am interested in calculating the following series

$$ \sum_{k=0}^{+\infty}{ \frac{ x^k }{\, a (a+1) \cdots (a+k) \,} } $$

using this continued fraction (I expect) equivalent form:

$$ \cfrac{1}{a + \cfrac{-ax}{a+1 + \cfrac{x}{a+2 + \cfrac{-(a+1)x}{a+3 + \cfrac{2x}{a+4 + \cfrac{-(a+2)x}{a+5 + \cfrac{3x}{a+6 + \cdots}}}}}}} \, \mathrm{,} $$

which can be expressed as

$$ \cfrac{f_0}{g_0 + \cfrac{f_1}{g_1 + \cfrac{f_2}{g_2 + \cdots}}} \, \mathrm{,} $$


$$ f_k = \left\{ \begin{aligned} 1, &&& \text{if $k=0$}\\ \frac{k}{2}x , &&& \text{if $k$ is even, $k \neq 0$} \\ -\left(a+\frac{k-1}{2} \right)x , &&& \text{if $k$ is odd} \end{aligned} \right. $$

[NOTE: The definition of $f_k$ was initially wrong, and has been fixed according to one of the answers.]


$$ g_k = a + k \, \text{,} $$

for $k \geq 0$.

I have tried to implement this continued fraction in Mathematica. This is what I have done:

f[k_, a_, x_] := If[EvenQ[k], (k/2)*x, -(a + (k - 1)/2)*x];
g[k_, a_] := a + k;
CONTFRAC[a_, x_] := 
  ContinuedFractionK[f[k, a, x] // Evaluate, 
   g[k, a] // Evaluate, {k, 0, +Infinity}];

Then I try

N[CONTFRAC[3/2, -100/3]]

(which should return something similar to $0.029542920686933995848485613587409381469661178405257$), but all I get is this:

This is what I get

So how can/should I ask Mathematica to calculate this continued sum?

NOTE: Why am I interested in doing that? Mathematica numerically calculates the value of the series with enough accuracy, but in other programming environments it is not like that for some values of $a$ and $x$ (for more details, see this math.SE thread).


2 Answers 2


There are a couple things wrong with your code. For one, ContinuedFractionK needs a cutoff maximal value of k to work. Second, you need to make sure that f only evaluates after a numerical value of k has been given. (Else, EvenQ[k] evaluates to False. Finally, f[0, a, x] evaluated to zero.

Here is some code that works:

f[k_Integer, a_, x_] := 
 If[EvenQ[k], If[k == 0, 1, (k/2)*x], -(a + (k - 1)/2)*x]; 
g[k_, a_] := a + k; 
CONTFRAC[a_, x_, kmax_] := 
 ContinuedFractionK[f[k, a, x], g[k, a], {k, 0, kmax}];

You now need to specify an kmax to evaluate the continued fraction, e.g.

N[CONTFRAC[3/2, -100/3, 100], 50]

You will have to vary kmax to check for convergence. (Either manually, or you have to write a loop.)

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! I am going to change the definition of $f_k$ in the question. I thought that Mathematica was able to numerically compute infinite continued fractions (up to a given precision). $\endgroup$
    – Vicent
    Oct 4, 2017 at 15:08

First things first: we have the relationship


where $\gamma(a,z)$ is the lower incomplete gamma function, which is expressed in Mathematica's notation as Gamma[a, 0, z].

Having gotten that out of the way, let me present a routine that uses the Lentz-Thompson-Barnett algorithm to evaluate a rearranged version of the CF in the OP:

SetAttributes[gamlow, Listable];
gamlow[a_?InexactNumberQ, z_?InexactNumberQ] := Module[{ak, c, d, di, f, h, k, tol, t2},
   tol = 10^(-Internal`PrecAccur[{a, z}]); t2 = tol^2;
   k = 1; f = c = 1; d = 0;
   While[ak = z If[OddQ[k], -(2 a + k - 1), k]/(2 (a + k - 1) (a + k));
         di = 1 + ak  d; If[di === 0, di = t2]; d = 1/di;
         c = 1 + ak/c; If[c === 0, c = t2];
         h = c d; f *= h; k++;
         Abs[h - 1] > tol];
   Exp[-z] z^a/(a f)]

(This routine can be compiled, if desired.)

Let's compare with the built-in:

{Plot3D[gamlow[a, z], {a, 1/2, 9/2}, {z, 0, 4}, PlotRange -> All], 
 Plot3D[Gamma[a, 0, z], {a, 1/2, 9/2}, {z, 0, 4}, PlotRange -> All]} // GraphicsRow

built-in versus CF

Plot3D[Abs[1 - gamlow[a, z]/Gamma[a, 0, z]], {a, 1/2, 9/2}, {z, 0, 4},
       PlotLabel -> "Relative Error", PlotRange -> All]

relative error


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