Outline of a math library

As I indicated at the very beginning, my main motivation for writing this document was that I wanted to have a reasonable programming manual for the development of a math library. Since I couldn’t find any, I have turned the problem around, and written up, what I have learnt by developing the library. But the question is, what this library should achieve in the first place?


Recently, I have run into some limitations with the micropython interpreter. These difficulties were related to both speed, and RAM. Therefore, I wanted to have something that can perform common mathematical calculations in a pythonic way, with little burden on the RAM, and possibly fast. On PCs, such a library is called numpy, and it felt only natural to me to implement those aspects of numpy that would find an applications in the context of data acquisition of moderate volume: after all, no matter what, the microcontroller is not going to produce or collect huge amounts of data, but it might still be useful to process these data within the constraints of the microcontroller. Due to the nature of the data that would be dealt with, one can work with a very limited subset of numpy.

Keeping these considerations in mind, I set my goals as follows:

  • One should be able to vectorise standard mathematical functions, while these functions should still work for scalars, so
a = 1.0


a = [1.0, 2.0, 3.0]

should both be valid expressions.

  • There should be a binary container, (ndarray) for numbers that are results of vectorised operations, and one should be able to initialise a container by passing arbitrary iterables to a constructor (see sin([1, 2, 3]) above).
  • The array should be iterable, so that we can turn it into lists, tuples, etc.
  • The relevant binary operations should work on arrays as in numpy, that is, e.g.,
>>> a = ndarray([1, 2, 3, 4])
>>> (a + 1) + a*10

should evaluate to ndarray([12, 23, 34, 45]).

  • 2D arrays (matrices) could be useful (see below), thus, the above-mentioned container should be able to store its shape.
  • Having matrices, it is only natural to implement standard matrix operations (inversion, transposition etc.)
  • These numerical arrays and matrices should have a reasonable visual representation (pretty printing)
  • With the help of matrices, one can also think of polynomial fits to measurement data
  • There should be an FFT routine that can work with linear arrays. I do not think that 2D transforms would be very useful for data that come from the ADC of the microcontroller, but being able to extract frequency components of 1D signals would be an asset.

And this is, how ulab was born. But that is another story, for another day https://github.com/v923z/micropython-ulab/.