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In mathematics, 1 − 2 + 3 − 4 + ··· is an infinite series whose terms are the successive positive integers, given alternating signs. Using sigma summation notation the sum of the first m terms of the series can be expressed as

n
=
1

m

n
(

1

)

n

1

.

{\displaystyle \sum _{n=1}^{m}n(-1)^{n-1}.}
The infinite series diverges, meaning that its sequence of partial sums, (1, −1, 2, −2, ...), does not tend towards any finite limit. Nonetheless, in the mid-18th century, Leonhard Euler wrote what he admitted to be a paradoxical equation:

1

2
+
3

4
+

=

1
4

.

{\displaystyle 1-2+3-4+\cdots ={\frac {1}{4}}.}
A rigorous explanation of this equation would not arrive until much later. Starting in 1890, Ernesto Cesàro, Émile Borel and others investigated well-defined methods to assign generalized sums to divergent series—including new interpretations of Euler's attempts. Many of these summability methods easily assign to 1 − 2 + 3 − 4 + ... a "value" of 1/4. Cesàro summation is one of the few methods that do not sum 1 − 2 + 3 − 4 + ..., so the series is an example where a slightly stronger method, such as Abel summation, is required.
The series 1 − 2 + 3 − 4 + ... is closely related to Grandi's series 1 − 1 + 1 − 1 + .... Euler treated these two as special cases of the more general sequence 1 − 2n + 3n − 4n + ..., where n = 1 and n = 0 respectively. This line of research extended his work on the Basel problem and leading towards the functional equations of what are now known as the Dirichlet eta function and the Riemann zeta function.

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