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Lesson 12 - Importing modules and the math module in Python

In the previous lesson, Tuples, sets, and dictionaries in Python, we learned about multi-dimensional lists in Python. In today's tutorial, we're going to learn to use libraries. Mainly, the math library.


Libraries (or modules) provides us with useful data types, functions, and tools for making even better programs. They're made so we don't have to re-write something someone else has already written for us. If we make our programs using existing modules, the development process will be much more comfortable and quick.

We import libraries using the import command, at the beginning of our source file.

import module_name

Then, we call module functions as they were in the module's methods:


We can also choose to only import certain functions:

from module_name import function_name

Then, the function would be globally accessible:


We could even make everything from the module be accessible globally. However, be careful with this approach and use it only if you know exactly what you're doing:

from module_name import *


First, let's introduce you to the Python math module - math. We have to import it in order to use it:


import math

The module provides 2 fundamental constants for us: pi and e. pi, as you all know, is the number Pi (3.1415...), and e is Euler's number, the base of the natural logarithm (2.7182...). I'm sure you'll get how to work with them. For completeness' sake, let's print these constants to the console:

print("Pi: %f" % (math.pi))
print("e: %f" % (math.e))

The result:

Console application
Pi: 3.141593
e: 2.718282

As you can see, we can call everything from the math module.

math module methods

Now, let's go over the methods that the math module provides.

ceil(), floor(), and random()

All of these functions are related to rounding. ceil() always rounds upwards and floor() rounds downwards no matter what. If you just need ordinary rounding, use the global round() function which takes a decimal number as a parameter and returns the rounded number as a double data type in the way we learned in school (from 0.5 it rounds upwards, otherwise downwards). The round() function is from the standard set of functions and isn't dependent on the math module.

We'll certainly use round() very often. I've used the other functions for things such as determining the number of pages in a guestbook. If we had 33 comments and we only printed 10 comments per page, these comments would take up 3.3 pages. The result must be rounded up since we would actually need 4 pages.


The output:

Console application

fabs() and abs()

The fabs() method takes a decimal (float) number as a parameter and returns its absolute value (which is always positive). We also have the global abs() function which works with integers.


The output:

Console application

sin(), cos(), tan()

These classic trigonometric functions all take an angle as a float, which has to be entered in radians (not degrees if your country uses them). To convert degrees to radians we multiply them by (Math.PI / 180). The return value is also a float.

acos(), asin(), atan()

These are inverse trigonometric (arcus, sometimes cyclometric) functions, which return the original angle according to its trigonometric value. The parameter is a float and the returned angle is in radians (also as a float). If we wanted the angle in degrees, we'd have to divide the radians by (180 / Math.PI).

pow() and sqrt()

pow() takes two parameters. The first is the base of the power and the second is the exponent. If we wanted to calculate 23, the code for it would be as follows:

print(math.pow(2, 3))

sqrt() is an abbreviation for SQuare RooT, which returns the square root of the number given as a float. Both functions return a float as the result.


exp(), log(), log2(), log10()

exp() returns Euler's number raised to the given exponent. log() returns the natural logarithm of the given number or the logarithm of the base entered as the second parameter. log10() returns the decadic logarithm of the number and log2() returns the binary logarithm.

print(math.log(16, 4))

The output:

Console application

Hopefully, you noticed that the method list lacks any general root function. We, however, can calculate it using the functions the math module provides.

We know that roots work like this: the 3rd root of 8 = 8^(1/3). Therefore, we can write the following bit of code:

print(math.pow(8, (1/3)))


Programming languages often differ in how they perform the division of numbers. You need to be aware of these issues to avoid being, unpleasantly, surprised afterwards. Let's write a simple program:

a = 5 / 2
b = 5.0 / 2
c = 5 / 2.0
d = 5.0 / 2.0
e = 5 // 2
f = 5.0 // 2
g = 5 // 2.0
h = 5.0 // 2.0


We divide 5 / 2 several times in the code. Mathematically, it's 2.5. Nonetheless, the results will not be the same in all cases. Can you guess what we'll get in each case? Go ahead, give it a try :)

The program output will be the following:

Console application

We see the result of division using the / operator is always decimal (float). It doesn't really matter what the data type of the variable we're assigning the result to is. If we wanted to perform whole-number division, we'd have to use the // operator. As you can see, it returns decimal numbers for decimal inputs, but the value is always a whole number (.0).

The remainder after division

In our applications, we often need the remainder after integer division (i.e. modulo). In our example 5 // 2, the integer result is 2 and modulo is 1 (what's left over). Modulo is often used to determine whether a number is even (remainder of division by 2 is 0). You would use it, for example, to draw a checkerboard and fill in the fields based on whether they are even or odd, calculate the deviance of your position in a square grid, and so on.

In Python, as in C-like languages in general, modulo is a percent sign, i.e. %:

print(5 % 2) # prints 1

Well, that's all I've got for today. In the next lesson, Solved tasks for Python lessons 10-12, we'll learn to declare custom functions and to decompose our programs into multiple logical parts.

In the following exercise, Solved tasks for Python lessons 10-12, we're gonna practice our knowledge from previous lessons.


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