# Help with calculating a sum

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
Hi!
I want to write a program in c, that calculates the sum [1+sum{1/(i(i+1)) from 1 to n}].
I declared the variables as float.
When I run the program with n=9, the output is 1.899999976, but when I calculate this with a calculator the result is 1.9.
Where is the error?

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
Hi!
I want to write a program in c, that calculates the sum [1+sum{1/(i(i+1)) from 1 to n}].
I declared the variables as float.
When I run the program with n=9, the output is 1.899999976, but when I calculate this with a calculator the result is 1.9.
Where is the error?
Hey mathmari!

Your calculator is more accurate than C when working with floats.
A "float" has only 7 significant digits, meaning that starting from the 8th digit the result will not be accurate anymore.

Tip: don't use "float". It is often not accurate enough.
Use "double" instead. It has 16 significant digits.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
I have to do it once with "double" and once with "float". I found the error.. I had a mistake at printf..
Could you tell me the result for "double" and "float" for n=99999, so that I can check my results?

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
I have to do it once with "double" and once with "float". I found the error.. I had a mistake at printf..
Could you tell me the result for "double" and "float" for n=99999, so that I can check my results?
EDIT: The following approximations are incorrect. See later posts.

In floats I get 1.999787 or with more digits 1.999786615.
In doubles I get 1.999965 or with more digits 1.999965439.

Mathematically, it is
\begin{aligned}
1+\sum_{i=1}^{n} \frac 1 {i(i+1)}
&= 1 + \sum_{i=1}^{n} \left( \frac 1 i - \frac 1 {i+1} \right) \\
&= 1 + \left(1 - \frac 1{n+1}\right) \\
&= 1 + \left(1 - \frac 1{99999 + 1}\right) \\
&= 1.99999
\end{aligned}

I am surprised myself, since I wouldn't have expected the double calculations to be so bad.
It is an example where rounding errors are accumulating significantly though.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
I got the same answers!!! Thank you very much!!!!

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
I got the same answers!!! Thank you very much!!!!
Hold on!

Since it bugged me that the answer was just a little bit too far off for doubles, I rechecked the calculations.
The resulting rounding error for doubles should be less than $10^{-14}$ and it wasn't.

Now I get:
Code:
float:  1.999791980
double: 1.999990000
The problem is that $i(i+1)$ has an overflow for high $i$.
An "int" can typically only hold a maximum of about $2 \times 10^9$ and we're going over.
To do it properly, the multiplication $i \times (i+1)$ has to be executed in floating point types.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
Could you explain it further to me, why I have to declare all the variables as "float"??

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
Could you explain it further to me, why I have to declare all the variables as "float"??
You don't necessarily have to declare them as float, but you do have to make sure the multiplication is a float multiplication.

In your for-loop you probably have something like this:
Code:
float result = 1;
int i;
for (i = 1; i <= n; ++i)
{
result += 1 / (float)(i * (i + 1));
}
Like this, i is multiplied by (i+1) as integers.
When i = 99999, the result is 9999900000.
This does not fit into an integer, and it becomes 1409965408 instead.

What you need is this:
Code:
float result = 1;
int i;
for (i = 1; i <= n; ++i)
{
result += 1 / ((float)i * (i + 1));
}
This way i is converted to a float before the multiplication.
And the result 9999900000 does fit into a float, although it will already get a rounding error.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
Is the code
Code:
float result = 1;
int i;
for (i = 1; i <= n; ++i)
{
result += 1 / ([COLOR="#FF0000"](float)[/COLOR]i * (i + 1));
}
equal to:
Code:
float result = 1;
int i;
for (i = 1; i <= n; ++i)
{
result += [COLOR="#FF0000"]1.0[/COLOR] / (i * (i + 1));
}
???

Also, when you wrote the output of the program, the numbers had a precision of 9 digits. Then I tried to print my results also with 9 digits by using %.9f, but for n=9 the result for float is 1.899999976 instead of 1.9. Why does this happen??

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
Is the code
Code:
float result = 1;
int i;
for (i = 1; i <= n; ++i)
{
result += 1 / ([COLOR="#FF0000"](float)[/COLOR]i * (i + 1));
}
equal to:
Code:
float result = 1;
int i;
for (i = 1; i <= n; ++i)
{
result += [COLOR="#FF0000"]1.0[/COLOR] / (i * (i + 1));
}
???
No.
If k is an integer, then "1 / (float)k" is equivalent to "1.0 / k".

But the essential difference is in "i * (i+i)".
The value of "(float)(i *(i+1))" is different from "((float)i * (float)(i+1))".

Also, when you wrote the output of the program, the numbers had a precision of 9 digits. Then I tried to print my results also with 9 digits by using %.9f, but for n=9 the result for float is 1.899999976 instead of 1.9. Why does this happen??
"%.9f" is fine. It will print 9 digits after the decimal point.
However, with a float you have rounding errors that become visible.
If you use a double, there won't be rounding errors (at least not in the first 9 digits).

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
Nice, I got it!! Thank you very much!!

I have also an other question

When I calculate the sum backwards, $$\frac{1}{n(n+1)}+\frac{1}{n(n-1)}+\frac{1}{(n-2)(n-1)}+....+1$$, why do I get a better approximation?

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
Nice, I got it!! Thank you very much!!

I have also an other question

When I calculate the sum backwards, $$\frac{1}{n(n+1)}+\frac{1}{n(n-1)}+\frac{1}{(n-2)(n-1)}+....+1$$, why do I get a better approximation?
Suppose you add 0.00012345 to 1.
Then you get 1.00012345.
But due to the limited precision of a float it gets truncated to something like 1.000123.
That is because it has about 7 significant digits.
Repeatedly adding for instance 0.0000001 to it won't have any effect.

On the other hand, if you add a small value to 0.00012345, it won't get "lost", since we're still working with the limited precision of the float. Repeatedly adding 0.0000001 will have the expected effect.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
Could you generalize it please,so that I understand what happens in general case??

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
Could you generalize it please,so that I understand what happens in general case??
Not sure what you mean.
Perhaps you can indicate what you're looking for?

I can say for instance the following.

Suppose we pick a number x that is so small that 1 + x comes out the same as 1.
In the case of a float $x = 10^{-8}$ will do.
That is, we have $1 + x = 1$.

And suppose we add x to 1 repeatedly, say n times.
Then we have that $(((1+x)+x)+...+x)+x = 1$.
But $(((x+x)+x)+...+x)+1=nx+1$.
The latter is different from 1 if n is large enough.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
If I write the command printf("%.16lf",x) does the number x=10^(-8) will do,can we pick this number at this case or should I pick a number 10^(- a number greater than 16) ??

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
If I write the command printf("%.16lf",x) does the number x=10^(-8) will do,can we pick this number at this case or should I pick a number 10^(- a number greater than 16) ??
That depends on how x has been declared.
If you have "float x;" before this, then "x=1e-8;" will do.
If you have "double x;" before this, then you will need something like "x=1e-17;".

And actually, you can also do:
Code:
#include <float.h>
...
float x_float = FLT_EPSILON;
double x_double = DBL_EPSILON;
...
This EPSILON is defined as: "Difference between 1 and the least value greater than 1 that is representable."

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
A ok..I got it Now I am looking at some other exercises with forward/backward error analysis and I noticed that calculating the sum $$Σ_{k=1}^{n}(\frac{1}{k^2})$$,using floats,for n<10000 the forward method is better,and for n>=10000,the backward method is better..Why does this happen????

Last edited:

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
A ok..I got it Now I am looking at some other exercises with forward/backward error analysis and I noticed that calculating the sum $$Σ_{k=1}^{n}(\frac{1}{k^2})$$,using floats,for n<10000 the forward method is better,and for n>=10000,the backward method is better..Why does this happen????
How so?
Backward method should always be better.

I quickly checked and my results confirm that.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
For the forward method for floats I used the following algorithm:
Code:
      int i;
float m=0;
for (i=1; i<=n; i++)
m=m+1.0/(pow(i,2));
For the backward method:
Code:
      int i;
float l=1.0/(pow(n,2));
for (i=1; i<n; i++)
l=l+1.0/(pow(n-i,2));
What have I done wrong?????

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
For the forward method for floats I used the following algorithm:
Code:
      int i;
float m=0;
for (i=1; i<=n; i++)
m=m+1.0/(pow(i,2));
For the backward method:
Code:
      int i;
float l=1.0/(pow(n,2));
for (i=1; i<n; i++)
l=l+1.0/(pow(n-i,2));
What have I done wrong?????
No mistake.
And your results check out.

Note that the backward results are slightly higher than the forward results as they should be.
The backward results are more accurate.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
For n=1000,the forward method error is 0.0009543306455124,and the backward method error 0.0009546722587621
Have you found something else for this n?????

Last edited:

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
For n=1000,the forward method error is 0.0009543306455124,and the backward method error 0.0009546722587621
Have you found something else for this n?????
For n=1000 with your code, I get:
Code:
Forward  result =  1.6439348459243774
Error           = -0.0000002792428178
Backward result =  1.6439344882965088
Error           =  0.0000000783850509
Did you perhaps calculate the difference with $$\displaystyle \frac{\pi^2} 6$$ or something like that?
What did you calculate?

Either way, as you can see from my results, the error with the backward method is way less than the forward method.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
Which algorithm did you use to find it?shouldn't the result be near to the real value of pi?

#### Klaas van Aarsen

##### MHB Seeker
Staff member
Which algorithm did you use to find it?shouldn't the result be near to the real value of pi?
I did the same calculation with "double" instead of "float".
With "double" it is so much more accurate that we can use the difference to find the error.

The series up to n=1000 is not $\frac{\pi^2}{6}$ yet.
It only approaches it.
With higher n, we'll get closer.
The forward algorithm will never get there, but the backward algorithm does.

#### mathmari

##### Well-known member
MHB Site Helper
Isn't your code calculating the approximation of $$\frac{\pi^2}{6}$$.My program should give the approximation of $$\pi$$ ,so I multiplied my result with 6 and squared it.Or am I wrong?