Teach the Earth > Data, Simulations and Models > Tools for Teaching with Data and Simulations > MATLAB


submitted by Lisa Kempler, MATLAB Community Strategist at MathWorks

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General Description

You can use MATLAB for a range of geoscience-related applications, from performing basic computation and visualization, to analyzing earthquakes, to modeling water flow in lakes, oceans and rivers, to studying climate change's impact on global coral reefs.

MATLAB provides tools to acquire, analyze, visualize data, and develop models and simulations of hypothetical and real-world phenomena. These capabilities enable teachers, students, and researchers in the geosciences to gain insight while simultaneously learning and applying mathematical computing skills and methods.

The exploration environment, language, built-in math functions, and add-on application-specific toolboxes, enable geoscientists to explore multiple approaches and reach a solution faster than with spreadsheets or general-purpose programming languages.

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Teaching with MATLAB Workshop Outcomes »

Uses of the Program

MATLAB product overview thumbnail Product Overview - 2:05
MATLAB can be applied to solving problems and developing systems involving mathematical computation, data analytics and statistics, signal and image processing, geographical mapping, and more in the scientific and engineering domains.

Educators and researchers in geoscience use MATLAB to develop homework sets, entire course curriculums, and tools for use by their larger community, whether they be hydrologists, seismologists, or geo-engineers. Searching the web for MATLAB + your-field-of-work frequently yields code examples, technical papers, and course materials that you can learn from and reuse.

Computational task examples with MATLAB and add-on toolboxes:
  • Data analysis and visualizing data via built-in plots and tools for creating custom plots
  • Curve fitting, statistics, and machine learning
  • Signal processing and communications
  • Image and video processing
  • Numeric and symbolic computing
  • Parallel computing and monitoring and improving code and program performance
  • Developing algorithms and applications
  • Documenting and sharing results via examples and reports, including MATLAB code and plots
  • Integrating MATLAB based algorithms with external applications and languages such as C, Java, .NET, Python, and Microsoft Excel

Audience and Setting

Key Features of MATLAB

  • Interactive environment for exploration, problem solving, and modeling
  • High-level language for numerical computation, data analysis, and algorithm and app development
  • Data import from Excel, text and .csv, binary, audio/video, image, and scientific-format files, such as CDF, FITS, and HDF
  • Mathematical functions for linear algebra, statistics and machine learning, signal analysis and image processing, and optimization
  • Graphics for visualizing signal, columnar, and map data, including web maps with base map layers (with Mapping Toolbox)
  • Big data support and parallel computing tools for leveraging multicore desktops and distributed hardware (with Parallel Computing Toolbox)
  • Development tools for improving code quality, performance, and maintainability
  • Custom Toolbox and application packaging, including with graphical interfaces
  • Interfaces for integrating MATLAB with external tools, such as , C, Java, .NET, Microsoft® Excel®, databases, low-cost hardware and measurement instruments

Researchers, students, faculty, and engineers and scientists in industry and government use MATLAB for their work. In academia, MATLAB is used in the classroom, in lab settings, and for homework via university computers, laptops and mobile devices.

Many universities have a sitewide MATLAB license, called a TAH (Total Academic Headcount), which enables the university to offer MATLAB across schools and departments. Classroom licenses, individual researcher licenses, student software, and other license types are also available.

The computational skills that students acquire with MATLAB are highly valued throughout industry, in many engineering-and science-related fields, from weather prediction to energy production and sustainability, as is their expertise with MATLAB software.

How to Get the Software

First, check if your educational institution can provide you access to a MATLAB license. Otherwise, MATLAB is available for purchase from MathWorks under a variety of licenses.

To try out the latest MATLAB release, request a trial on mathworks.com.

Community-developed MATLAB code, examples, tips, and other resources are freely available for download from MATLAB File Exchange.

How to Use the Software

Tutorials - On-line tutorials help you learn MATLAB and see what's possible
Tutorials are available for students and teachers of MATLAB, computational math, and signal processing. In addition, there are 1000s of videos on MathWorks.com and YouTube.

Watch the tutorials »

MathWorks offers online teaching and learning tools that streamline the evaluation and grading process for educators and enable students to get up to speed faster.

Cody Coursework - Grade MATLAB programming assignments automatically
Cody Coursework™ lets you create MATLAB programming assignments for students and automatically grade their work. You can write your own or use any of the 1300 MATLAB programming problems available on MATLAB Central. Cody Coursework supports third-party tools for detecting plagiarism and conducting proctored exams.

Cody - Students and Faculty Acquire Computing Skills with MATLAB
Cody™ is an online game on the MATLAB community site that helps you learn to program with MATLAB via problem-solving and interacting with other members of the community.

Resources and References

The 2015 Teaching Geoscience with MATLAB workshop outcomes include a collection of teaching activities, essays, and course descriptions that can help faculty incorporate MATLAB at the course or program level. The outcomes also include a workshop synthesis that highlights best practices, a set of webpages to support teaching with MATLAB, and an interest group actively discussing aspects of MATLAB in geoscience.

View all Teaching Activities »

Teaching Data, Simulations, and Models with MATLAB »

Additional Resources

Course Curriculum


Code Examples

Case Studies Articles, Blogs, and Resource Pages
Additional classroom resources for educators are available on the MathWorks web site:

Videos for introducing MATLAB to undergrads

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