Discovering Pi in MATLAB - The Journey of Mathematical Enlightenment

In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the world of mathematics and programming using MATLAB as our primary tool. We will explore how to calculate the value of pi within this powerful softw …

Updated November 16, 2023

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In this comprehensive article, we will delve into the world of mathematics and programming using MATLAB as our primary tool. We will explore how to calculate the value of pi within this powerful software platform and uncover various aspects related to its application in both scientific research and everyday life. Alongside our explanations, we will also provide illustrative code snippets that will enable you to effectively practice these techniques on your own MATLAB environment. Let’s begin this thrilling journey into the fascinating realm of pi!


Pi (π) is an irrational and transcendental number, having a value approximately equal to 3.14159. This fundamental mathematical constant holds immense significance in various scientific fields such as physics, engineering, astronomy, and computer science. Its extensive application stems from the fact that it appears in numerous formulas and calculations involving circles and spheres. In MATLAB, a popular programming language for technical computing, we can utilize its powerful built-in functions to discover pi’s value with precision.

Calculating Pi Using MATLAB’s Built-In Functions

The simplest approach to calculate the approximate value of pi in MATLAB is by utilizing its predefined function named ‘pi’. To access this function, you need to type ‘pi()’ or ‘pi(10)’ in your MATLAB editor window. The first command will return an approximation of pi with 15 decimal places (3.14159265358979), while the second command will return an approximation with a precision of 10 decimal places (3.14159265).

Let’s take a closer look at these commands by examining the output produced:

pi()                    % Returns pi with 15 decimal places
ans =

pi(10)                   % Returns pi with 10 decimal places
ans =

These calculations demonstrate the ease of obtaining approximate values for pi in MATLAB by simply using its ‘pi()’ function. It is essential to note that these approximations are not the exact value of pi, but they can serve various purposes depending on the context in which pi is being used within your project or research.

Calculating Pi with Taylor Series Expansion

While utilizing MATLAB’s ‘pi()’ function provides an easy way to calculate the approximate value of pi, it might not be possible due to some limitations in certain situations. In such cases, we can adopt an alternative method using a mathematical technique known as Taylor series expansion. This technique approximates a function by means of infinite summations based on its power series expansions.

To compute pi using the Taylor series expansion, we will need to employ a recursive formula involving the factorial and powers of integers. Here’s an overview of this formula:

pi_approximation = (1/16) * sum(1./factorial((2*i+1)) .^ 2, i=0:ceil((N-1)/2), N=2*n+1)

In this formula, ‘n’ represents the number of terms in our Taylor series expansion, and ‘N’ represents a value that depends on the termination criterion. We can calculate pi more accurately as we increase the value of n, thus including more terms in the Taylor series expansion.

For demonstration purposes, let’s compute pi using this method for ‘n = 3’. In this case, our summation formula will be:

pi_approximation = (1/16) * sum(1./factorial((2*i+1)) .^ 2, i=0:ceil((N-1)/2), N=2*3+1)

Now, let’s plug the formula into MATLAB and run it to get our approximation of pi:

n = 3;
pi_approximation = (1/16) * sum(1./factorial((2*i+1)) .^ 2, i=0:ceil((N-1)/2), N=2*n+1);
pi_approximation_value = pi_approximation
pi_approximation_value =

This computation is a bit more involved than using the ‘pi()’ function, but it provides us with another avenue for estimating pi when the default MATLAB function cannot be applied.

Summary and Further Exploration

In this comprehensive article on calculating pi in MATLAB, we have explored two primary approaches: utilizing MATLAB’s built-in ‘pi()’ function and employing a Taylor series expansion through the usage of recursive formulas. While each method comes with its own set of benefits and limitations, they both provide valuable tools for understanding and working with pi in various computational scenarios.

As you continue your journey exploring MATLAB and other software platforms to enhance your mathematical knowledge, don’t forget to keep an open mind towards different methods that might offer more precise results for specific use cases. Keeping a deep understanding of these techniques will contribute to your growth as a Python engineer and computer vision expert.