Math Utilities

Java supports integer and floating-point arithmetic directly. Higher-level math operations are supported through the java.lang.Math class. Java provides wrapper classes for all primitive data types, so you can treat them as objects if necessary. Java also provides the java.util.Random class for generating random numbers.

Java handles errors in integer arithmetic by throwing an ArithmeticException:

int zero = 0;  
try {  
    int i = 72 / zero;  
catch ( ArithmeticException e ) {
    // division by zero

To generate the error in this example, we created the intermediate variable zero. The compiler is somewhat crafty and would have caught us if we had blatantly tried to perform a division by a literal zero.

Floating-point arithmetic expressions, on the other hand, don’t throw exceptions. Instead, they take on the special out-of-range values shown in Table 9.3.

Table 9-3. Special Floating-Point Values


Mathematical Representation







The following example generates an infinite result:

double zero = 0.0;  
double d = 1.0/zero;  
if ( d == Double.POSITIVE_INFINITY )  
    System.out.println( "Division by zero" );

The special value NaN indicates the result is “not a number.” The value NaN has the special distinction of not being equal to itself (NaN != NaN evaluates to true). Use Float.isNaN( ) or Double.isNaN( ) to test for NaN.

The java.lang.Math Class

The java.lang.Math class provides Java’s math library. All its methods are static and used directly; you don’t have to (and you can’t) instantiate a Math object. We use this kind of degenerate class when we really want methods to approximate standard C-like functions. While this tactic defies the principles of object-oriented design, it makes sense in this case, as it provides a means of grouping some related utility functions in a single class. Table 9.4 summarizes the methods in java.lang.Math.

Table 9-4. Methods in java.lang.Math


Argument Type(s)



int, long, float, double

Absolute value



Arc cosine



Arc sine



Arc tangent



Angle part of rectangular-to-polar coordinate transform



Smallest whole number greater than orequal to a






Math.E to the power a



Largest whole number less than or equal to a



Natural logarithm of a

Math.max(a, b)

int, long, float, double


Math.min(a, b)

int, long, float, double


Math.pow(a, b)


a to the power b

Math.random( )


Random-number generator



Converts double value to integral value in double format


float, double

Rounds to whole number






Square root




log(), pow(), and sqrt() can throw an ArithmeticException. abs(), max( ), and min( ) are overloaded for all the scalar values, int, long, float, or double, and return the corresponding type. Versions of Math.round( ) accept either float or double and return int or long, respectively. The rest of the methods operate on and return double values:

double irrational = Math.sqrt( 2.0 );  
int bigger = Math.max( 3, 4 );  
long one = Math.round( 1.125798 );

For convenience, Math also contains the static final double values E and PI :

double circumference = diameter * Math.PI;

The java.math Class

If a long or a double just isn’t big enough for you, the java.math package provides two classes, BigInteger and BigDecimal, that support arbitrary-precision numbers. These are full-featured classes with a bevy of methods for performing arbitrary-precision math. In the following example, we use BigDecimal to add two numbers:

try { 
    BigDecimal twentyone = new BigDecimal("21"); 
    BigDecimal seven = new BigDecimal("7"); 
    BigDecimal sum = twentyone.add(seven); 
    int answer= sum.intValue( );           // 28
catch (NumberFormatException nfe) { } 
catch (ArithmeticException ae) { }

If you implement cryptographic algorithms for fun, BigInteger is crucial. But other than that, you’re not likely to need these classes.

Wrappers for Primitive Types

In languages like Smalltalk, numbers and other simple types are objects, which makes for an elegant language design, but has trade-offs in efficiency and complexity. By contrast, there is a schism in the Java world between class types (i.e., objects) and primitive types (i.e., numbers, characters, and boolean values). Java accepts this trade-off simply for efficiency reasons. When you’re crunching numbers, you want your computations to be lightweight; having to use objects for primitive types would seriously affect performance. For the times you want to treat values as objects, Java supplies a wrapper class for each of the primitive types, as shown in Table 9.5.

Table 9-5. Primitive Type Wrappers





















An instance of a wrapper class encapsulates a single value of its corresponding type. It’s an immutable object that serves as a container to hold the value and let us retrieve it later. You can construct a wrapper object from a primitive value or from a String representation of the value. The following statements are equivalent:

Float pi = new Float( 3.14 );  
Float pi = new Float( "3.14" );

Wrapper classes throw a NumberFormatException when there is an error in parsing a string:

try {  
    Double bogus = new Double( "huh?" );  
catch ( NumberFormatException e ) {     // bad number  

You should arrange to catch this exception if you want to deal with it. Otherwise, since it’s a subclass of RuntimeException, it will propagate up the call stack and cause a runtime error if not caught.

Sometimes you’ll use the wrapper classes simply to parse the String representation of a number:

String sheep = getParameter("sheep");  
int n = new Integer( sheep ).intValue( );

Here we are retrieving the value of the sheep parameter. This value is returned as a String, so we need to convert it to a numeric value before we can use it. Every wrapper class provides methods to get primitive values out of the wrapper; we are using intValue( ) to retrieve an int out of Integer. Since parsing a String representation of a number is such a common thing to do, the Integer and Long classes also provide the static methods Integer.parseInt() and Long.parseLong( ) that read a String and return the appropriate type. So the second line in the previous example is equivalent to:

int n = Integer.parseInt( sheep );

Likewise, the Float and Double classes provide the static methods Float.parseFloat() and Double.parseDouble( ), for parsing strings into floating-point primitives.

All wrappers provide access to their values in various forms. You can retrieve scalar values with the methods doubleValue() , floatValue(), longValue( ), and intValue( ):

Double size = new Double ( 32.76 );  
double d = size.doubleValue( );     // 32.76
float f = size.floatValue( );       // 32.76
long l = size.longValue( );         // 32
int i = size.intValue( );           // 32

This code is equivalent to casting the primitive double value to the various types.

You also need a wrapper when you want to use a primitive value in a situation that requires an object. As you’ll see shortly, a Vector is an extensible array of Objects. We can use wrappers to hold numbers in a Vector, along with other objects:

Vector myNumbers = new Vector( );  
Integer thirtyThree = new Integer( 33 );  
myNumbers.addElement( thirtyThree );

Here we have created an Integer wrapper object so that we can insert the number into the Vector, using addElement( ) . Later, when we are extracting elements from the Vector, we can recover the int value as follows:

Integer theNumber = (Integer)myNumbers.firstElement( );  
int n = theNumber.intValue( );           // 33

Random Numbers

You can use the java.util.Random class to generate random values. It’s a pseudo-random number generator that can be initialized with a 48-bit seed.[31] The default constructor uses the current time as a seed, but if you want a repeatable sequence, specify your own seed with:

long seed = mySeed;  
Random rnums = new Random( seed );

This code creates a random-number generator. Once you have a generator, you can ask for random values of various types using the methods listed in Table 9.6.

Table 9-6. Random Number Methods



nextBoolean( )

true or false

nextInt( )

-2147483648 to 2147483647

nextInt(int n)

0 to (n - 1) inclusive

nextLong( )

-9223372036854775808 to 9223372036854775807

nextFloat( )

-1.0 to 1.0

nextDouble( )

-1.0 to 1.0

By default, the values are uniformly distributed. You can use the nextGaussian( ) method to create a Gaussian (bell curve) distribution of double values, with a mean of 0.0 and a standard deviation of 1.0.

The static method Math.random( ) retrieves a random double value. This method initializes a private random-number generator in the Math class, using the default Random constructor. So every call to Math.random( ) corresponds to a call to nextDouble( ) on that random-number generator.

[31] The generator uses a linear congruential formula. See The Art of Computer Programming, Volume 2, “Semi-numerical Algorithms,” by Donald Knuth (Addison-Wesley).

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