Hello I am in a basic numerical methods class and our teacher has given us an algorithm which can compute the inverse of a matrix other than using MATLAB's built in library function.

A = [1 2 4; 1 3 9; 1 4 16];
b = [7; 13; 21];
[L, U, P] = lu(A);
n = 3;
X = zeros(n,n);
for i=1:n
   e = zeros(n,1); 
   e(i) = 1;
    X(:,i) = U\(L\(P*e))

I am a bit new to MATLAB, so I Am a bit unsure as to what this code is actually doing to find the inverse. I naively set n = 3 because it was the only value i could find to get the algorithm to work.

Now I know this algorithm finds the LU factorization of A then uses the \ operator repeatedly.

what I do not understand is what x = zeros(n,n) what is the point of this line as well as the inner for loop

e = zeros(n,1); //creates a 3 x 1 matrix of zeroes?
e(i) = 1;       //No idea what this line is doing
X(:,i) = U\(L\(P*e)) 

As for the last line of the for loop, This is the repeated "\" operation but I have no idea what the X(:,i) stands for as well as well using "\" by P*e

Could someone help me understand this algorithm better? Because I am only understanding fragments of it at the moment.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This looks like a homework question to me. I would advise you to look at any introduction to Matlab your teacher may have given you, or really any one available and then take a basic book on linear algebra and read it. IMHO deciphering the workings of the code this way is more productive (in terms of learning) than asking - at least for such simple codes. $\endgroup$
    – Nox
    Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


The inverse of $A$ is the solution to the linear system of equations


If we write $X$ in terms of its columns as

$X=\left[ x^{(1)}, x^{(2)}, \ldots, x^{(n)} \right]$,

then we can break up $AX=I$ into $n$ separate systems of equations

$Ax^{(1)}=\left[ \begin{array}{c} 1 \\ 0 \\ \vdots \\ 0 \end{array} \right]$,

$Ax^{(2)}=\left[ \begin{array}{c} 0 \\ 1 \\ \vdots \\ 0 \end{array} \right]$, $\vdots$

$Ax^{(n)}=\left[ \begin{array}{c} 0 \\ 0 \\ \vdots \\ 0 \\ 1 \end{array} \right]$.

A common notation for a vector of all zeros except for a 1 in the $i$th position is $e^{(i)}$. With that notation, these systems are $Ax^{(i)}=e^{(i)}$, for $i=1, 2, \ldots, n$. In MATLAB you can create a vector $e^{(i)}$ with e=zeros(n,1); e(i)=1.

The code you were given solves these $n$ linear systems of equations using the LU factorization of $A$.

The LU factorization (with pivoting) is


So, to solve $Ax=b$, multiply by $P$ on both sides of the equation to get




Next, if we solve





$PAx=LUx=Lw=Pb$ and $Ax=b$. The MATLAB \ function is used in code to solve the triangular systems. In particular, we get $w$ by w=L\(P*b) and then get $x$ by x=U\(L\(P*b)).


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