5 Best Ways to Evaluate an Equation in Python

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πŸ’‘ Problem Formulation: Finding the value of a given equation is a common task in programming, particularly in scientific computing and data analysis. This article explores how to solve an equation like x + 2 = 5 and find the value of x using Python. The desired output for this input would be x = 3.

Method 1: Using the eval() Function

The eval() function in Python takes a string and evaluates it as a Python expression. It’s versatile because you can pass it a string representation of an arbitrary mathematical equation, and it will return the result. This function should be used with caution, especially with user-supplied input, due to potential security risks.

Here’s an example:

equation = '2 + 3 * 4'

Output: 14

The code snippet above takes a string representing a mathematical equation and passes it to the eval() function, which computes and returns the result.

Method 2: Using sympy.solve()

The sympy library offers a powerful set of tools for symbolic mathematics in Python. The sympy.solve() function can solve equations symbolically, which is ideal for algebraic expressions and calculus problems.

Here’s an example:

from sympy import symbols, solve

x = symbols('x')
equation = x + 2 - 5
solution = solve(equation, x)

Output: [3]

This method uses the SymPy library to define symbolic variables and solve equations. solve() finds the value for x that satisfies the equation x + 2 - 5 = 0.

Method 3: Using NumPy’s numpy.roots()

NumPy is a fundamental package for scientific computing in Python. The numpy.roots() method can be used to find the solutions of a polynomial with coefficients given in a list.

Here’s an example:

import numpy as np

coefficients = [1, -3, 2]  # coefficients for x^2 - 3x + 2

Output: [2. 1.]

The code snippet utilizes NumPy’s roots() function to find the values of x for which the polynomial x^2 - 3x + 2 equals zero. The coefficients list represents the polynomial’s coefficients in descending order.

Method 4: Using a Custom Parsing Function

If you need more control or wish to avoid third-party libraries, writing a custom function to parse and evaluate equations is another approach. This requires a thorough understanding of parsing techniques and possible equation structures.

Here’s an example:

def parse_and_solve(equation):
    # Custom parsing logic here
    # For illustration, return a fixed solution
    return 3

custom_equation = 'x + 2 = 5'

Output: 3

This approach entails developing a custom parser that interprets the structure of the equation and computes the solution accordingly. The example provides a skeleton where one might implement such a function.

Bonus One-Liner Method 5: Using exec() with Assignments

The exec() function is similar to eval() but supports the execution of dynamic Python code, including variable assignments. Use it with caution for the same security reasons as eval().

Here’s an example:

code = 'x = 5 - 2'

Output: 3

This method leverages the exec() function to execute a string containing a Python statement, thereby evaluating an equation and updating the program’s state with the result.


  • Method 1: eval() Quick and easy for evaluating simple expressions. Strengths: concise. Weaknesses: security risks, limited to simple expressions.
  • Method 2: sympy.solve() Ideal for algebraic equations. Strengths: symbolically solves equations, powerful for complex expressions. Weaknesses: third-party dependency.
  • Method 3: numpy.roots() Best for polynomial equations. Strengths: works well with polynomials, part of the widely-used NumPy library. Weaknesses: only for polynomials, dependency required.
  • Method 4: Custom Parsing Function Maximum control over equation parsing. Strengths: flexible, no extra dependencies. Weaknesses: complex to implement, reinventing the wheel.
  • Method 5: exec() Useful for dynamic Python code execution. Strengths: capable of handling complex statements with assignments. Weaknesses: security considerations, less readable.