Undefined function or variable 'r', but I am confident I defined it

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Steelierelk on 22 Feb 2018
Edited: Stephen23 on 22 Feb 2018
I am trying to use the bisection method to evaluate a function.
function [r,iter] = bisect(xl,xu,es,imax)%inputs are: left x value, right x value, stopping criterion, maximum iterations
iter = 0;
while (abs(xu-xl)>=es) %runs a nonstop loop under specified conditions
xr = (xl+xu)/2; %midpoint of xl and xu values to approximate root
xrold = xr;
iter = iter+1;
if xr~=0
ea=abs((xr-xrold)/xr)*100; %calculate approximate error
test = feval(f,xl)*feval(f,xr); %test if functions have opposite signs
if test < 0
xu = xr;
elseif test > 0
xl = xr;
ea = 0;
if ea < es || iter >= imax %if approx. error is less than stopping criterion, or number of iterations is greater than or equal to maximum amount of iterations, stop loop
r = xr;
However, when I run the function with inputs, it returns "Undefined function or variable 'r'". As a test to see what was wrong, I evaluated the line
it says that xl is undefined, even though I put in a value for it upon running the function through my command line. Can anyone help me figure out what's making my code respond with this, and what I should do to avoid this problem? Thank you.
  1 Comment
Stephen23 on 22 Feb 2018
"Undefined function or variable 'r', but I am confident I defined it"
When about when xu=1, xl=1, and es=9, is it defined then? Can you tell us what would its value would be?

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Answers (2)

Geoff Hayes
Geoff Hayes on 22 Feb 2018
Steelierelk - I suspect that the
"Undefined function or variable 'r'"
corresponds to the
line. If this is true, then this is because whatever inputs you have entered are such that the while loop condition
while (abs(xu-xl)>=es)
evaluates to false...and so the r variable never gets set. I would set a breakpoint at this line (the while condition) and verify that the values you have passed into this function make sense given the condition.
It is also good practice to assign default values to output variables so that at least something is assigned to them.
And, what do you mean by you evaluated the line xr=(xl+xu)/2. When did you evaluate this? After you had run the function (in which case the variables would be out of scope and so be undefined)? Or were you stepping through the code with the debugger?
Stephen23 on 22 Feb 2018
"I'm not too familiar with how breakpoints work. I'll have to do some reading on that."
"Could you provide an example of assigning default values to output variables? I'm not quite sure what you mean by that"
At the start of your function define r to be a suitable value, e.g.:
r = []
Then even if the while loop condition is not met (as you have now), there will still be an output defined. But this depends on whether you want to accept this case or not: maybe throwing an error makes more sense. Only you can decide this.

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Roger Stafford
Roger Stafford on 22 Feb 2018
In your code you set xrold equal to xr and compute ea:
which not surprisingly gives ea a zero value. This guarantees that your later test ea < es for es a positive number will produce a break on the first trip through the while loop. This means that the line r = xr never get executed and hence r is undefined.

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