In mathematics, pointwise convergence is one of various senses in which a sequence of functions can converge to a particular function. It is weaker than uniform convergence, to which it is often compared.
Suppose is a sequence of functions sharing the same domain and codomain. The codomain is most commonly the reals, but in general can be any metric space. The sequence converges pointwise to the function , often written as
if and only if
for every x in the domain. The function is said to be the pointwise limit function of .
This concept is often contrasted with uniform convergence. To say that
where is the common domain of and . That is a stronger statement than the assertion of pointwise convergence: every uniformly convergent sequence is pointwise convergent, to the same limiting function, but some pointwise convergent sequences are not uniformly convergent. For example, if is a sequence of functions defined by , then pointwise on the interval [0,1), but not uniformly.
The pointwise limit of a sequence of continuous functions may be a discontinuous function, but only if the convergence is not uniform. For example,
takes the value 1 when x is an integer and 0 when x is not an integer, and so is discontinuous at every integer.
The values of the functions fn need not be real numbers, but may be in any topological space, in order that the concept of pointwise convergence make sense. Uniform convergence, on the other hand, does not make sense for functions taking values in topological spaces generally, but makes sense for functions taking values in metric spaces, and, more generally, in uniform spaces.
Pointwise convergence is the same as convergence in the product topology on the space YX, where X is the domain and Y is the codomain. If the codomain Y is compact, then, by Tychonoff's theorem, the space YX is also compact.
Almost everywhere convergence
In measure theory, one talks about almost everywhere convergence of a sequence of measurable functions defined on a measurable space. That means pointwise convergence almost everywhere, i.e. on a subset of the domain whose complement has measure zero. Egorov's theorem states that pointwise convergence almost everywhere on a set of finite measure implies uniform convergence on a slightly smaller set.