Course Navigator
Back To Course
High School Precalculus: Homework Help Resource32 chapters | 271 lessons
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over
Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has taught Math at a public charter high school.
Sigma is the 18th letter of the Greek alphabet and is equivalent to our letter 'S'. In mathematics, the upper case sigma is used for the summation notation. The lower case sigma stands for standard deviation. Each has its own unique formula, and yes, both the upper case and lower case look vastly different from each other.
Neither of them looks like our letter 'S', but they are both the Greek equivalent of it. If you notice, the two formulas that use these two symbols both start with the letter 's'.
The upper case sigma is used in the summation notation. This particular notation is also called sigma notation.
This particular formula, as its name denotes, tells you to sum up the function evaluated at particular points determined by the little numbers on top and below the big sigma. It is used to add a series of numbers.
You will most likely see this used to sum up a function evaluated at certain points. In the real world, this can be used to figure out the interest you earn over a period of time if you have money saved in an interest-bearing account at a financial institution.
When performing math problems, you will most often see this in association with functions of various types. An example is the summation of f(n) = 1/n evaluated at 1, 2, 3, and 4.
The little numbers on top and below the big sigma determine the starting and ending evaluation values. You can see that we've plugged in the values 1, 2, 3, and 4 into the n in the formula to evaluate at each of the values and then summed it all up.
The summation or sigma notation is fairly straightforward and easy to follow. Try it out with a few functions you are familiar with so you can get a better feel for how it works. Try different starting and ending values as well.
The lower case sigma is used for the standard deviation formula in statistics.
If you haven't delved into statistics before, welcome! Don't let this huge formula scare you. The letter that looks like the letter 'u' but with a longer line is the Greek letter 'mu', and in this formula it stands for the mean, or average, of a series of numbers. The x with the subscript i stands for each number in the series. Say, for example, the series of numbers goes like this: 5, 2, 8, and 1. The x sub 1 number is 5 and the x sub 3 number is 8. Do you see how it works? In this particular series, we only have four numbers and so our N is 4.
While the above example might look scary, it really isn't. If you break it down into its parts you will see that all we have done is plug and play. We've plugged our numbers into the equation where they belong, and we solve it step by step, simplifying as we go.
Let's review. The first and most common formula related to the sigma symbol is the summation notation using the upper case sigma. The less common formula is the one for standard deviation used in statistics. This second formula uses the lower case sigma.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Already a member? Log In
BackDid you know… We have over 49 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.
Course Navigator
Back To Course
High School Precalculus: Homework Help Resource32 chapters | 271 lessons