A symbol is a named mathematical object. It belongs to a domain and it may hold a value. A symbol without a value represents a mathematical unknown in an expression.

To change the value or domain of a symbol, use the value and domain properties of the symbol.

const n = ce.box('n'); n.domain = 'Integer'; n.value = 5; console.log("n: ", n.value.json, n.domain.toString());

A symbol can be used before being declared. A previously unknown symbol has a domain of ce.defaultDomain and no value.

Symbols exist within a scope.


The Compute Engine supports lexical scoping.

The context of the Compute Engine is a stack of scopes that define the current symbol and function definitions.

To locate the definition of a symbol or function, the dictionary associated with the current (top-most) scope is used first.

If no matching definition is found, the parent scope is searched, and so on until a definition is found.

To add a new scope to the context use ce.pushScope().

  dictionary: {
    symbols: [{ name: 'd', value: 500 }],

The dictionary property of a scope contains bindings for symbols and functions.

To exit a scope use ce.popScope(). This will invalidate any definition associated with the scope, and restore definitions from previous scopes that may have been shadowed by the current scope.

Forgetting a Symbol

To reset what is known about a symbol use the ce.forget() function.

The ce.forget() function will remove any domain/value associated with a symbol, and any assumption about the symbol.

To forget about a specific symbol, pass the name of the symbol as an argument to ce.forget().

To forget about all the symbols in the current scope, use ce.forget() without any arguments.

Note that only symbols in the current scope are forgotten. If a definition for the symbol existed in a previous scope, that definition will now be in effect.

Name Binding

Name Binding is the process of associating the name of a function or symbol with a definition.

The definition of symbols and functions is initially set when an instance of a Compute Engine is created. Dictionaries that map names to definitions can be provided when the Compute Engine is created. Additional dictionaries can be provided later using the ce.pushScope() function.

The definitions record contain information such as the domain or value of a symbol, or how to simplify or evaluate functions.

Symbol Binding

When a symbol is boxed, that is when ce.box() is called on an expression that contains the symbol, a definition matching the name of the symbol is searched in the symbol dictionary of the current scope (ce.context). If none is found, the parent scope is searched recursively until one is found or the root scope is reached.

If a definition is found, the symbol is associated with (bound to) the definition.

Symbol Auto-binding

If ce.defaultDomain is null, and no definition exist for the symbol, the symbol is unbound. This will limit the usefulness of the symbol, although the symbol can still be used to represent unknowns.

If ce.defaultDomain is notnull and no definition is found for the symbol, a new one is created automatically.

The new definition has a domain of `ce.defaultDomain’ and no value associated with it, so the symbol will be a free variable.

By default, defaultDomain is "ExtendedRealNumber" so any unknown variable is automatically assumed to be a real number.

const symbol = ce.box('m'); // m for mystery
// ➔ "ExtendedRealNumber"
symbol.value = 5;
// ➔ 5

Bound Variables, Free Variables and Constants

Symbol binding can either refer to name binding (associating a definition with the name of a symbol) or value binding (associating a value with the definition of a symbol).

If the definition of a symbol has a value, the symbol is said to be a bound variable (value binding).

This is in opposition to free variables which are symbols that have a definition, but no value, and constants which are symbols that have a value that cannot be altered.

The property expr.symbolDefinition is not undefined if a symbol is a bound variable (name binding, it has a definition).

The property expr.symbolDefinition?.constant is true if a symbol is a constant.

Assigning a value to a free variable makes it a bound variable (name binding and value binding).

The value of constants is determined at the time of name binding. The value of some symbols — Pi, for example — may be determined based on settings of the compute engine, for example the value of the precision property. So the same symbol could have different values depending on when the binding occurs.

ce.precision = 4;
const smallPi = ce.box('Pi'); // π with 4 digits
// ➔ 3.1415

ce.prevision = 10;
const bigPi = ce.box('Pi'); // π with 10 digits
// ➔ 3.1415926535

ce.precision = 100; // Future computations will be done with 100 digits

console.log('pi = ', smallPi.numericValue, '=', bigPi.numericValue);
// ➔ pi  = 3.1415 = 3.1415926535

Declaring a Symbol

Declaring a symbol is providing some information about this symbol, such as its domain or whether it is positive.

If the symbol has not been used before, a new definition record for this symbol is created, and the symbol is bound to it.

To declare a symbol use ce.assume().

// Making an assumption using an expression
ce.assume(['Element', 'n', 'Integer']);

// As a shortcut, an assumption about a symbol can be made with two arguments
ce.assume('n', 'Integer');

// Making  an assumption using a LaTeX expression
ce.assume('$n > 0$');

// Assumption about the value of a symbol
ce.assume('n', 5);

const symbol = ce.box('n');

// ➔ true

// ➔ Integer

// ➔ 5

Note that ce.assume('n', 5) is equivalent to ce.box('n').value = 5.

Function Binding

The definition associated with a function determines how it is put in canonical form, simplified and evaluated.

When a function is boxed, for example when ce.box() is called on an expression that includes the name of the function, a dictionary entry for the function is looked up in the current context, then recursively in the parent scope.

When a matching entry is found, the definitions associated with it are bound with the boxed function. Note that unlike a symbol, a function may have multiple definitions in a given scope. In this way, function can support ad-hoc polymorphism, that is have multiple implementations depending on the values or domains of their arguments.

When an expression containing a function is put in canonical form, simplified or evaluated, the appropriate definition is selected based on the domain and value of its arguments.