In this chapter, you learn how to use Python to work with numbers. You've already seen some arithmetic examples, but after reading this chapter, you'll have a better understanding of the different ways you can represent numbers in Python, of how to perform mathematical computations, and of efficient ways of working with large numerical data sets.
Numerical code lies at the heart of technical software, and is used widely in science, engineering, finance, and related fields. Almost any substantial program does some nontrivial numerical computation, so it pays to be familiar with some of the contents of this chapter even if you are not working in one of these fields. For instance, if you are writing a script to analyze web logs, you might want to compute statistics on the rate of hits on your web server; if you are writing a program with a graphical user interface, you might need math functions to compute the coordinates of the graphics in your GUI.
Parts of this chapter require some understanding of math beyond simple arithmetic. Feel free to skip over these if you have forgotten the math being used. The last section of this chapter, which discusses numerical arrays, is technically more advanced than most of the material in this book, but it's important reading if you plan to use Python for handling large sets of numbers.
Designing software that performs complex numerical computation, known as numerical analysis, is both a science and an art. There are ...