The Simple Maths post seems to be the most popular article in the so-far short life of this blog.

It’s also something that I have received a few emails about recently, so I feel like posting a bit more on the subject.

I think that the code can speak for itself… We implement a loop, which calls the builtin `read`

function (I’m not sure the “-p” flag, to provide a prompt, is universal. It does work with the Bash builtin. If it doesn’t work on your *nix, it’s really only for show, so you can live without it.

Because `read`

works on standard input (aka “stdin”), it will work interactively from the keyboard, or direct from a file (one number per line).

We use two methods of doing maths in the shell:

`expr`

, because it’s a simple and easily-read way to do simple maths:`n=`expr $n + 1``

`bc`

, because it is more powerful. Do have a play with`bc`

interactively, it can do a lot... see below.

```
```So, we can write a fairly simple script (read down, it's only actually 11 lines of code without the comments), which is actually quite versatile - it can do running averages, it can be interactive or run from cron, called from another script, even used as a function.

So, here's the code. It should be fairly self-explanatory, but do have a look at the interactive `bc`

sample session below, to see what we are doing with `bc`

. Also, do play with `bc`

(some Linux distros have dropped it from the default install recently, so you'll have to `yast -i bc`

, or equivalent)

### The Script - Calculate Averages

#!/bin/sh
# Calculate mean (average) of integer data
# Initialise the variables
n=0 # n being the number of (valid) data provided
sum=0 # sum being the running total of all data
# Note that by using ^D (aka "EOF") to quit, this
# script will work just as well interactively, as
# when provided with a file containing the data.
while read -p "Enter a number (^D to quit): " x
do
# expr is useful for simple maths
sum=`expr $sum + $x`
# If this fails, it was non-numeric input
if [ "$?" -eq "0" ]; then
# Okay, it was valid input.
n=`expr $n + 1`
# We can provide a "running average" here;
# I'll comment it out for now.
# echo "Running Average:"
# echo "scale=2;$sum/$n" | bc
# echo
fi
done
# Okay, we've done the loop.
# Present the data.
echo "Overall Average:"
# bc is more useful than expr for
# more involved maths, though its
# syntax, particularly in a script,
# is possibly less obvious.
# Using bc interactively is easier
# than using it in a shell script
echo "scale=2;$sum/$n" | bc

### Interactive bc

The bold text is user input. The rest is from `bc`

:

$ **bc**

bc 1.06

Copyright 1991-1994, 1997, 1998, 2000 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

This is free software with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.

For details type `warranty'.
**ibase=2**
I'll be entering base2 (binary)
**01001001**
So, I enter 1001001 (73)
73
And it replies with the answer in base 10
**ibase=10**
Does this set the input base back to 10?
**10**
Let's input "10", it should reply "10"
2
No, we entered "10" in base 2, which is 2!
**ibase=1010**
So, 10 in binary is 1010 (8+2)
**10**
We say 10
10
And bc says 10. Good, we're back to normal
**11**
And the same for 11
11
Good, it works. Now for some maths..
**1 + 2**
(tricky stuff!)
3
Yes, that's good, 1+2=3
**23 + 34 + 45 + 56**
We're not limited to x+y
158
So we can build up our sums
**10/3**
10/3 = 3 and a third, right?
3
Not to 0 decimal places.
**scale=2**
Okay, let's have 2 decimal places
**10/3**
Now ask again
3.33
That's better
**scale=5**
Or to 5 points?
**10/3**
Ask again...
3.33333
And it works!
**scale=1**
One point:
**10/3**
And ask again
3.3
As we expected.
**scale=0**
So, scale=0 means 0 places
**10/3**
Should say 3
3
Yes, we're back to where we started.

### Back to the Script

That made a nice break. Now we'll go back to the script... it's only actually 11 lines long:

#!/bin/sh
n=0
sum=0
while read x
do
sum=`expr $sum + $x`
if [ "$?" -eq "0" ]; then
n=`expr $n + 1`
fi
done
echo "scale=2;$sum/$n" | bc

And as I said, we can use it interactively, or with a file of data:

$ cat data.txt
4
5
6
$ average.sh
5.00

Because, under *nix, *EVERYTHING IS A FILE*, even the keyboard!