5 Best Ways to Compute Euler’s Number ‘e’ Using Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Computing Euler’s number ‘e’ is a common task in mathematical and scientific computations. It’s essential for understanding growth processes, compound interest, and certain probability distributions. We want a Python program that calculates ‘e’ using the series expansion method e = 1 + 1/1! + 1/2! + … + 1/n! for a given value of ‘n’. The input is a non-negative integer, n, and the output is a numerical approximation of ‘e’ calculated to ‘n’ terms.

Method 1: Iterative Approach

The iterative approach involves using a loop to calculate each term of the series 1/n! for ‘n’ from 0 to some large number. The factorial function is calculated at each step and allows us to accumulate the sum of terms to converge on the value of Euler’s number.

Here’s an example:

def compute_e(n):
    e = 1
    factorial = 1
    for i in range(1, n+1):
        factorial *= i
        e += 1 / factorial
    return e


Output: 2.7182818011463845

This code defines a function compute_e(n) that computes the value of ‘e’ to ‘n’ terms of the series. We initialize ‘e’ to 1 and ‘factorial’ to 1, then a for loop runs from 1 to ‘n’ to calculate the factorial and add the inverse of it to ‘e’. Finally, ‘e’ is printed after the loop concludes. The strength of this method is that it is straightforward and easy to understand. However, as ‘n’ becomes very large, the loop can become slower and consuming of computational resources.

Method 2: Recursive Approach

The recursive approach capitalizes on the inherent nature of the factorial function being a recursive mathematical operation. This method uses a recursive helper function to compute factorial values, which are then used to evaluate the series.

Here’s an example:

def recursive_factorial(n):
    if n == 0:
        return 1
        return n * recursive_factorial(n-1)

def compute_e_recursive(n):
    e = sum(1 / recursive_factorial(i) for i in range(n + 1))
    return e


Output: 2.7182818011463845

Here we define two functions: recursive_factorial(n) computes ‘n’ factorial using recursion, while compute_e_recursive(n) uses a generator expression to sum the terms of the series expansion of ‘e’ up to ‘n’ terms. The output is the same as the iterative method, but recursion typically leads to higher memory usage and is prone to stack overflow errors if ‘n’ is too large.

Method 3: Using Math Library

This method involves Python’s built-in math library, which provides a method to directly calculate Euler’s number ‘e’ to significant precision without dealing with the series expansion.

Here’s an example:

import math


Output: 2.718281828459045

In this example, we simply import the math library and print the constant math.e, which contains a precomputed high-precision value of Euler’s number. This method is the simplest and most accurate; however, it doesn’t demonstrate the mathematical computation of ‘e’ through series.

Method 4: Using Decimal for High Precision

For a more precise value with more control over the computation, we can use the decimal library in Python. This method is beneficial when we need precision beyond what floating-point arithmetic offers.

Here’s an example:

from decimal import Decimal, getcontext

getcontext().prec = 50  # setting precision to 50 decimal places

def compute_e_decimal(n):
    e = Decimal(1)
    factorial = Decimal(1)
    for i in range(1, n+1):
        factorial *= i
        e += Decimal(1) / factorial
    return e


Output: 2.7182818284590452353602874713526624977572470937

By setting a precision with getcontext().prec and using Decimal numbers, we can calculate ‘e’ to a very high degree of accuracy. In this code, the compute_e_decimal(n) function is a modification of the iterative approach, tweaked to use the decimal module for higher precision. The downside is that it runs slower than floating-point arithmetic due to the overhead of maintaining high precision.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using Factorials from itertools

A concise, Pythonic one-liner can use the itertools module with accumulate function to create factorials and a generator expression to sum the series.

Here’s an example:

from itertools import accumulate
from operator import mul

e = sum(1 / f for f in accumulate(range(1, n+1), mul, initial=1))

Output: 2.7182818011463845 (for n=10)

This example showcases a compact method using accumulate from the itertools library to compute factorials which are then used in the calculation of ‘e’. This method maintains readability while utilizing powerful library functions. It’s a practical solution for moderate values of ‘n’, though it does not scale as well as more controlled iterative solutions for very large ‘n’.


    Method 1: Iterative Approach. Easy to understand. Potentially inefficient for large ‘n’. Method 2: Recursive Approach. Demonstrates recursion. Not suitable for large ‘n’ due to memory and stack limits. Method 3: Using Math Library. Most efficient. Does not illustrate the calculation of ‘e’. Method 4: Using Decimal for High Precision. Best for high precision requirements. Slower due to computational overhead. Bonus One-Liner: Using Factorials from itertools. Elegant and readable. Does not offer control over precision or performance tweaks.