How to make calculations involving symbolic summation?

I want to minimize a function involving the sum of $$n$$ fixed (but indetermined) $$x$$ values, for example:

Minimize[Sum[(x[i] - a)^2, {i, 1, n}], a]

Expected answer: Sum[x[i], {i, 1, n}]/n

Is there a way to represent this sum and solve the problem symbolically?

• By "known but undetermined", do you mean that they do not actually have explicit values, but are merely formal signifiers? Oct 29 '20 at 14:03
• @thorimus Exactly!
– WHoZ
Oct 29 '20 at 14:10
• Works fine if you set $n$ to a specific value. Oct 29 '20 at 14:37

Here a solution without specifying n. Following the approach here https://mathematica.stackexchange.com/a/16972 to distributes the terms in the sum you could compute the extremum explicitly

Sum[(x[i]-a)^2,{i,1,n}]
Distribute@D[%,a]
Solve[%==0,a]

which gets you a candidate for an extremum at

a -> -Sum[-2*x[i], {i, 1, n}]/(2*n)

which is in fact a minimum since the second derivative

Sum[(x[i] - a)^2, {i, 1, n}]
Distribute@D[%, a, a]

is positive (2n) for all a. I do not know how one could get Minimize to work without specifying n.

Works fine for me:

n = 4;
Minimize[Sum[(x[i] - a)^2, {i, 1, n}], a]

(*    {1/4 (3 x^2 - 2 x x + 3 x^2 - 2 x x - 2 x x + 3 x^2 - 2 x x - 2 x x - 2 x x + 3 x^2),
{a -> 1/4 (x + x + x + x)}}    *)

and

D[Sum[(x[i] - a)^2, {i, 1, n}], a] /. a -> Sum[x[i], {i, 1, n}]/n // Expand

(*    0    *)
• Oh, that's great! I didn't think of trying to set a specific value for n. Thanks!
– WHoZ
Oct 29 '20 at 15:06