1.2 Use R as a Fancy Calculator

While R is super powerful, it is, first of all, a very fancy calculator.

1.2.1 Add comments using “#”

The first item we will cover is about adding comments. In R, you can add comments using the pound sign #. In each line, anything after # are comments, which will be ignored by R. Let’s see an example,

6 - 1 / 2 #first calculate 1/2=0.5, then 6-0.5=5.5
#> [1] 5.5

Just looking at the resulting value 5.5, you may not know the detail of the calculation process. The comment informs you the operation order: the division is calculated before the subtraction.

In general, adding comments to codes is a very good practice, as it greatly increases readability and make collaboration easier. We will also add many comments in our codes to help you learn R.

1.2.2 Basic calculation

Now let’s start to use R as a calculator! You can use R to do addition, subtraction, multiplication,division, and combine multiple basic operations. You can also calculate the square root, absolute value and the sign of a number.

Operation Explanation
1 + 2 addition
1 - 2 subtraction
2 * 4 multiplication
2 / 4 division
6 - 1 / 2 multiple operations
sqrt(100) square root
abs(-3) absolute value
sign(-3) sign

While the first seven operations in the table look intuitive, you may be wondering, what does the sign() function mean here? Is it a stop sign?

Sometimes, you may have no idea how a particular function works. Fortunately, R provides a detailed documentation for each function. There are three ways to ask for help in R.

  • Use a question mark followed by the function name, e.g. ?sign
  • Use help function, e.g. help(sign)
  • Use the help window in RStudio, as shown in Figure 1.13. The help window is the panel 4 of Figure 1.4 in Section 1.1. Then type in the function name in the box to the right of the magnifying glass and press return.
Ask for help

Figure 1.13: Ask for help

1.2.3 Approximation

After learning about doing basic calculations, let’s move on to do approximation in R. When you do division, for example, when computing 7 / 3, the answer is not a whole number since 7 is not divisible by 3. Under these circumstances, approximation operators are very handy to use. Let’s take 7 / 3 as the example.

a. Get the integer part and the remainder

Code Name
7%/%3 integer division
7%%3 modulus

We all know that 7 = 3 * 2 + 1. So the integer division will pick up the integer part, which is 2 here; and the modulus will get the remainder, which is 1.

b. Get the nearby integer

floor(7 / 3)   
#> [1] 2
ceiling(7 / 3) 
#> [1] 3

Since 2 <= 7/3 <= 3, you can use the floor function to find the largest integer <= 7/3, which is 2; and the ceiling function gives the smallest integer >= 7/3, which is 3.

c. Round to the nearest number

round(7 / 3)   
#> [1] 2
round(7 / 3, digits = 3)
#> [1] 2.333

The round() function follows the rounding principle. By default, you will get the nearest integer to 7 / 3, which is 2. If you want to control the approximation accuracy, you can add a digits argument to specify how many digits you want after the decimal point. Here you will get 2.333 after adding digits = 3.

1.2.4 Power & logarithm

You can also use R to do power and logarithmic operations.

Generally, you can use ^ to do power operations. For example, 10^5 will give us 10 to the power of 5. Here, 10 is the base value, and 5 is the exponent. The result is 100000, but it is shown as 1e+05 in R. That’s because R uses the so-called scientific notation.

scientific notation: a common way to express numbers which are too large or too small to be conveniently written in decimal form. Generally, it expresses numbers in forms of \(m \times 10^n\) and R uses the e notation. Note that the e notation has nothing to do with the natural number \(e\). Let’s see some examples, \[\begin{align} 1 \times 10^5 &= \mbox{1e+05}\\ 2 \times 10^4 &= \mbox{2e+04}\\ 1.2 \times 10^{-3} &= \mbox{1.2e-03} \end{align}\]

In mathematics, the logarithmic operations are inverse to the power operations. If \(b^y = x\) and you only know \(b\) and \(x\), you can do logarithm operations to solve \(y\) using the general form \(y = \log(x, b)\), which is called the logarithm of \(x\) with base \(b\).

In R, logarithm functions with base value of 10, 2, or the natural number \(e\) have shortcuts log10(), log2(), and log(), respectively. Let’s see an example of log10(), the logarithm function with base 10.

#> [1] 1e+06
log10(1e6) #log10(x) = log(x, 10)
#> [1] 6

Next, let’s see log2(), the logarithm function with base 2.

#> [1] 1024
log2(1024)  #log2(x) = log(x, 2)
#> [1] 10

Before moving on to the natural logarithm, note that the natural number \(e\) needs to be written as exp(1) in R. When you want to do power operations on \(e\), you can simply change the argument in the function exp(), for example, exp(3) is \(e\) to the power of 3. Here, log() without specifying the base argument represents the logarithm function with base \(e\).

#> [1] 2.718282
#> [1] 20.08554
log(exp(3))  #log(x) = log(x, exp(1))
#> [1] 3

1.2.5 Trigonometric function

R also provides the common trigonometric functions.

#> [1] -1
#> [1] 3.141593

Here, acos() is the inverse function of cos(). If we set \(cos(a) = b\), then we will get \(acos(b) = a\).

#> [1] 1
#> [1] 1.570796

Similarly, asin() is the inverse function of sin(). If we set \(sin(a) = b\), then we will get \(asin(b) = a\).

#> [1] 1
#> [1] 0.7853982

Also, atan() is the inverse function of tan(). If we set \(tan(a) = b\), then we will get \(atan(b) = a\).

1.2.6 Exercises

  1. Write R code to compute \(\sqrt{5 \times 5}\).

  2. Write R code to get help on the function floor.

  3. Write R code to compute the square of \(\pi\) and round it to 4 digits after the decimal point.

  4. Write R code to compute the logarithm of 1 billion with base 1000.

  5. Write R code to verify \(sin^2(x) + cos^2(x) = 1\), for \(x = 724\).