Math Insight

Vector creation in R


Saving and storing numbers in R is one of the most basic skills but one of the most useful as well. You can assign the number 2 to the variable a by entering

a <- 2

at the R command line. The “<-” tells R to take the number to the right of the symbol and store it in a variable whose name is given on the left. You can also use the “=” symbol, as in

a = 2

When you make an assignment R does not print out any information. If you want to see what value a variable has just type the name of the variable on a line and press the enter key. (In what follows, will display the results as you will see in R, with the R command prompt > followed by what you type. Lines that begin with a number if brackets such as [1] are the R output.)

> a
[1] 3

This allows you to do all sorts of basic operations and save the numbers:

> b <- sqrt(a*a+3)
> b
[1] 3.464102

If you want to get a list of the variables that you have defined in a particular session you can list them all using the ls command:

> ls()
[1] "a" "b"

You are not limited to just saving a single number. You can create a list (also called a “vector”) using the c command (where c stands for combine):

> a <- c(1,2,3,4,5)
> a
[1] 1 2 3 4 5
> a+1
[1] 2 3 4 5 6
> mean(a)
[1] 3
> var(a)
[1] 2.5
You can get access to particular entries in the vector in the following manner:

> a <- c(1,2,3,4,5)
> a[1]
[1] 1
> a[2]
[1] 2
> a[0]
> a[5]
[1] 5
> a[6]
[1] NA

Note that the zero entry is used to indicate how the data is stored. The first entry in the vector is the first number, and if you try to get a number past the last number you get “NA.”

Examples of the sort of operations you can do on vectors is given in a next chapter.

To initialize a list of numbers the numeric command can be used. For example, to create a list of 10 numbers, initialized to zero, use the following command:

> a <- numeric(10)
> a
[1] 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

If you wish to determine the data type used for a variable the type command:

> typeof(a)
[1] "double"