I am wondering how to change the output format in Mathematica. For example, I have $x=\binom{3}{1}$ and $y=\binom{2}{5}$, and I want to find what linear combination of $x$ and $y$ produces $\binom{7}{11}$. What do I have to do to make Mathematica display the output $x+2y$ ?

I tried using Solve, but Mathematica just returns the coefficients. I also tried to use the augmented matrix, but again Mathematica still did not give me the output I want.

P.S. I am working with a 16 by 16 matrix with 16 variables, so it's not very convenient to read off the coefficients for each variable.

x = {3, 1}
y = {2, 5}
a  Defer[x] + b Defer[y] /. First@Solve[a x + b y == {7, 11}, {a, b}]

(* x + 2 y *)

Note that the output is usable as such: evaluate it and you'll get the combination result.

If only integer coefficients are desired, changing the Solve to something like:

Solve[a x + b y == {7, 11} && {a, b} \[Element] Integers, {a, b}]

will accomplish this. If you extend things where no solutions, or multiple solutions are possible, probably want to do the Solve first, check it, then do the replace.

Edit: Here's a sketch (meaning not heavily tested, surely more elegant ways to do same) of how you might generalize this into a function:


SetAttributes[combo, HoldAll]l

combo[a_, b_, c_] := 
 Block[{d = Defer /@ Unevaluated[{a, b}], syms = Table[Unique[], {2}]},
  Total[syms*d] /. First@Solve[Total[{a, b}*(syms)] == c, syms]];

(* cobble up an example *)

m1 = {{1, 2}, {3, 4}};
m2 = {{3, 5}, {7, 9}};

(* do some combo *)
result = 3 m1 - 2 m2

(* solve and output as desired *)
combo[m1, m2, result]

(* 3 m1 - 2 m2 *)

As above, the result can be used/evaluated. If you go the generalized function route, you probably do want to check for no-solution cases, add desired limitation(s) to solve (e.g. integer only), and perhaps extend it to more than two + result arguments...

  • $\begingroup$ Wow that is quick. Thank you very much. $\endgroup$ – snowball Jun 13 '14 at 9:32

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