wxMaxima in Economics

Applying the open-source computer algebra program to economic analysis

Getting Started

The wxMaxima editor is a front end for the open-source Maxima computer algebra system. Maxima can be used in the PC, Mac, and Linux environments. To download Maxima, visit the SourceForge download site for Maxima. When you install MaximawxMaxima is installed as a matter of course.the wxMaxima icon

When you install Maxima, you have the option of placing a wxMaxima icon on the desktop. Do so. Then clicking on the icon (image at the right) opens wxMaxima.

The wxMaxima help site

The wxMaxima help site offers a list of tutorials. For each one, clicking on a link allows you to download a zipped folder. The folder may contain more than one file, but one of the files in the folder will be a wxm file. Clicking on this file opens that file inside wxMaxima. [If the file does not open in wxMaxima, save the file to a folder, open wxMaxima and then select that file from wxMaxima‘s file menu.]

All files contain a combination of title, text, and input/output cells. To execute a single cell, click on the cell and hit either ctrl-enter or shift-enter (or use the Cell/Evaluate cell(s) menu option).  [You can execute all of the commands in the worksheet by selecting ctrl-r, but you probably should not take this option until you are more familiar with Maxima.]

We suggest that you open and work through the following two files:

  • A 10 minute tutorial for solving Math problems with Maxima. The title notwithstanding, plan to spend more than 10 minutes on this tutorial. It provides a good overview of how Maxima works. Depending on your background, some of the mathematics might seem a bit esoteric. If so, you can pass by that material without a great loss.
  • Understanding Maxima Essentials. This tutorial covers some of the same ground as the 10 minute tutorial.

Other files in this list can be downloaded and examined if the topics seem pertinent to your work.

Also, under “Other documents,” select and download (wx)Maxima tutorial with special focus on mathematics needed in economics. This 119-page book does what its title says, providing an overview of much of the mathematics that one would use in conducting economic analysis. The site for this book also provides a wxMaxima notebook that contains all of the examples from the book, and a second notebook that contains answers to all exercises. Both of these are text files. Right-click on the link and select Save Link As …. The default is a wxm file. Save the file(s) with this wxm suffix. The name can be changed, but the suffix must remain wxm.

Other Sites

The Maxima documentation page offers links to numerous useful sites. Three stand out:

  • Maxima by Example is an excellent site, both for beginners and for more advanced users. This site offers a set of chapters in PDF format. The first chapter provides a useful overview of Maxima, especially on its use of lists.
  • Symbolic Mathematics Using Maxima is an interesting site, a bit whimsical and decidedly more philosophical than most of the others.
  • Maxima Book consists of 10 chapters, along with some introductory material on wxMaxima. All analysis is conducted in wxMaxima. The target audience is engineering students, but much of the material will be useful to economists. The material uses an earlier version of wxMaxima, but the changes since version 0.8.2 consist of relatively minor improvements. If you download the worksheets, recall the instructions above: Right-click on the link and select Save Link As …. The default is a wxm file. Save the file(s) with this wxm suffix. The name can be changed, but the suffix must remain wxm.