How do I numerically solve an ODE in MATLAB?

The other day a student came to ask me for help in solving a second order ordinary differential equation using the ode45 routine of MATLAB.  To use ode45, one needs to be familiar with how the inputs are required by MATLAB.  The understanding of these inputs is important to use ode45 successfully in problems that are more complex than solving a second order ODE.

The ordinary differential equation was
2y”+3y’+5y=7 exp(-x), y(0)=11, dy/dx(0)=13
This has to put in the state variable form by reducing it by using
That gives
y’=z with the corresponding initial conditions as y(0)=11
2y”+3y’+5y=7 exp(-x)
reduces to
2z’ + 3z+5y=7exp(-x)
z’ =(7exp(-x)-3z-5y)/2 with the corresponding initial conditions as z(0)=13

So as needed by MATLAB, call y as y(1) and z as y(2)
dy(1)=y(2), y(1) at x=0 is 11
dy(2)=(7exp(-x)-3y(2)-5y(1))/2, y(2) at x=0 is 13

These equations are now put in a MATLAB function we call odestate.m

To solve the ODE, the
The inputs are
1) the function odestate
2) The outputs are required between x=0 and x=17,
hence entered as [0 17]
3) The initial conditions are y(0)=11 and dy/dx(0)=13,
hence entered as [11  13]

The outputs are
1) X= array of x values between 0 and 17
2) Y= matrix of 2 columns;
first column is the y(x)
second column is dy/dx(x)
The MATLAB code then is
[X,Y]=ode45(@odestate,[0  17],[11 13]);

Click the links for the MATLAB mfiles for the function odestate.m and the ODE solver odetest.m


This post is brought to you by Holistic Numerical Methods: Numerical Methods for the STEM undergraduate at, the textbook on Numerical Methods with Applications available from the lulu storefront, and the YouTube video lectures available at and

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Author: Autar Kaw

Autar Kaw ( is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of South Florida. He has been at USF since 1987, the same year in which he received his Ph. D. in Engineering Mechanics from Clemson University. He is a recipient of the 2012 U.S. Professor of the Year Award. With major funding from NSF, he is the principal and managing contributor in developing the multiple award-winning online open courseware for an undergraduate course in Numerical Methods. The OpenCourseWare ( annually receives 1,000,000+ page views, 1,000,000+ views of the YouTube audiovisual lectures, and 150,000+ page views at the NumericalMethodsGuy blog. His current research interests include engineering education research methods, adaptive learning, open courseware, massive open online courses, flipped classrooms, and learning strategies. He has written four textbooks and 80 refereed technical papers, and his opinion editorials have appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune.

2 thoughts on “How do I numerically solve an ODE in MATLAB?”

  1. How can one solve a quater car model with (Vehicle’s mass (m1), wheel mass (m2), springs stiffness (k1 & k2) and a damping coefficient (damping coefficient (extension and compression) using Euler Method (MATLAB Program).


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