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In mathematics, formal power series are a generalization of polynomials as formal objects, where the number of terms is allowed to be infinite; this implies giving up the possibility to substitute arbitrary values for indeterminates. This perspective contrasts with that of power series, whose variables designate numerical values, and which series therefore only have a definite value if convergence can be established. Formal power series are often used merely to represent the whole collection of their coefficients. In combinatorics they provide representations of numerical sequences and of multisets, and for instance allow giving concise expressions for recursively defined sequences regardless of whether the recursion can be explicitly solved; this is known as the method of generating functions.
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