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Learning MATLAB

Tobin A. Driscoll
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Donald L. Vestal
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This short (under 100 pages) book provides an introduction to the Computer Algebra System MATLAB. The stated purpose of the book is “to introduce the essentials of the MATLAB software environment and to show how to start using it well.” The author does this with some examples and exercises. After a chapter introducing some of the basics — including a handy list of shortcuts in section 1.6 — the book gets into matrices, stressing this particular aspect of MATLAB since it was originally designed as a “matrix laboratory.” In the remaining chapters, the reader learns about functions, while- and for-loops, graphics, advanced topics like memory preallocation, vectorization and masking, cell arrays and structures, and finally some examples of scientific computing like finding roots, optimization, and numerical integration.

This book is geared toward an audience with some familiarity with computers, but who are just starting out with MATLAB. While there probably isn’t enough material for a full course, it could make a good supplementary text for a course on scientific computing. It presents the material well and gives some interesting “insider tips” on things like preallocation. However, if I could improve one thing, it would be the index. The index is rather sparse, and it would be helpful to have a quick list of functions and commands to do some of the simple things (like finding the transpose of a matrix).

Donald L. Vestal is Associate Professor of Mathematics at South Dakota State University. His interests include number theory, combinatorics, spending time with his family, and working on his hot sauce collection. He can be reached at Donald.Vestal(AT)