Python SymPy — A Short Primer

What’s SymPy Anyway?

SymPy is a Python library for symbolic computation. So instead of approximating the result of the square root of 2, it keeps the square root intact—using a symbolic representation. This helps in further processing and can lead to situations where Python has introduced a floating point precision error without need. Here’s a basic example:

import sympy

print(sqrt(3))
# sqrt(3)

The result is NOT an approximated square root of 3 like in the math package:

import math

print(math.sqrt(3))
# 1.7320508075688772

An Interactive Example

You can try it yourself in the interactive code shell:

(Just click the image to create your own code!)

How to Install SymPy?

To install SymPy in Python, simply run the following command in your shell:

pip install sympy

This works for all major operating systems (MacOS, Windows, Linux). A preliminary is to have the pip package manager installed.

(Confused by all the libraries, modules, pip, and virtual environments? Read the ultimate library guide on my blog.)

To check whether it has installed correctly, simply run the following command in your Python shell:

>>> help(sympy)
Help on package sympy:

NAME
    sympy

DESCRIPTION
    SymPy is a Python library for symbolic mathematics. It aims to become a
    full-featured computer algebra system (CAS) while keeping the code as simple
    as possible in order to be comprehensible and easily extensible.  SymPy is
    written entirely in Python. It depends on mpmath, and other external libraries
    may be optionally for things like plotting support.
    
    See the webpage for more information and documentation:
    
        https://sympy.org

PACKAGE CONTENTS
    abc
    algebras (package)
    assumptions (package)

The output validates that the sympy package has installed correctly.

Where to Go From Here?

Enough theory, let’s get some practice!

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