Interpolation formula

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A formula for the approximate calculation of values of a function by replacing it by a function

that is simple in a certain sense and belongs to a certain class. The parameters , , are chosen in such a way that the values of coincide with the known values of on a given set of distinct values of the argument:


This method of approximately representing a function is called interpolation, and the points at which (1) should hold are called interpolation nodes. Instead of the simplest condition (1), the values of some quantity related to may also be given, e.g. the values of a derivative of at interpolation nodes.

The method of linear interpolation is the most widespread among the interpolation methods. The approximation is now looked for in the class of (generalized) polynomials


in some fixed system of functions . In order for the interpolation polynomial (2) to exist for any function defined on an interval , and for any choice of nodes , if , it is necessary and sufficient that is a Chebyshev system of functions on . The interpolation polynomial will, moreover, be unique and its coefficients can be found by directly solving (1).

For one often takes: the sequences of powers of ,

the sequence of trigonometric functions,

or the sequence of exponential functions,

where is a sequence of distinct real numbers.

When interpolating by algebraic polynomials


the system is


while (1) has the form


The system (4) is a Chebyshev system, which ensures the existence and uniqueness of the interpolation polynomial (3). A property of (4) is the possibility of obtaining an explicit representation of the interpolation polynomial (3) without immediately having to solve (5). One of the explicit forms of (3),


is called the Lagrange interpolation polynomial (cf. Lagrange interpolation formula). If the derivative is continuous, the remainder of (6) can be written as


where ; . The value of the remainder (7) depends, in particular, on the values of . The choice of interpolation nodes for which is minimal, is of interest. The distribution of the nodes is optimal in this sense if the roots

of the polynomial

which deviates least from zero on , are taken as the nodes. Here is the Chebyshev polynomial of degree (cf. Chebyshev polynomials).

There is a number of other explicit representations of (3) that are more useful for solving this or another practical interpolation problem (cf., e.g., Bessel interpolation formula; Gauss interpolation formula; Newton interpolation formula; Stirling interpolation formula; Steffensen interpolation formula; Everett interpolation formula). If it is difficult to estimate in advance the degree of the interpolation polynomial that is necessary for attaining the error desired (e.g., when interpolating a table), then one takes recourse to the Aitken scheme. In this scheme interpolation polynomials of increasing degrees are constructed sequentially, thus making it possible to control the accuracy in the computational process. Another approach to the construction of interpolation formulas can be found in Fraser diagram.

The Hermite interpolation formula gives the solution to the problem of the algebraic interpolation of the values of a function and its derivatives at interpolation nodes.


[1] I.S. Berezin, N.P. Zhidkov, "Computing methods" , Pergamon (1973) (Translated from Russian)
[2] N.S. Bakhvalov, "Numerical methods: analysis, algebra, ordinary differential equations" , MIR (1977) (Translated from Russian)


Many interpolation formulas are contained in [a1][a3].

Consider the interpolation problem of finding a polynomial of degree satisfying the conditions


where the are distinct knots, and there are precisely equations in (a1). If for each the orders of the derivatives occurring in (a1) form an unbroken series , one has Hermite interpolation. (In case for all , i.e. if no interpolation conditions involving derivatives occur in (a1), one has Lagrange interpolation.) If gaps (lacunae) occur, one speaks of lacunary interpolation or Birkhoff interpolation. The pairs which occur in (a1) are conveniently described in terms of an interpolation matrix of size , , , , where if does occur in (a1) and otherwise. The matrix is called regular if (a1) is solvable for all choices of the and and singular otherwise.

More generally, let be a system of linearly independent -times continuously-differentiable real-valued functions on an interval or on the circle. Instead of polynomials now consider linear combinations . A matrix of zeros and ones , , , is an interpolation matrix if there are precisely ones in (and, usually, if there are no rows of zeros in ; this means that all knots do occur at least once in an interpolation condition). Let be a set of knots, i.e. distinct points of the interval or circle. Finally, for each such that let there be given a number . These data define a Birkhoff interpolation problem:


The pair is called regular if (a2) is solvable for all choices of the .

For each such that , consider the row vector of length ,

For varying such that one thus finds row vectors which together make up an matrix. The pair is regular if and only if this matrix is invertible. Its determinant, where the pairs with are ordered lexicographically, is denoted .

Suppose that the are the values of the derivatives of some function at the knots. Then a simple formula for the solution of the interpolation problem (a2) follows from Cramer's rule. Indeed, if denotes the determinant obtained by replacing with in the formula for , then


See also Hermite interpolation formula.


[a1] P.J. Davis, "Interpolation and approximation" , Dover, reprint (1975) pp. 108–126
[a2] F.B. Hildebrand, "Introduction to numerical analysis" , McGraw-Hill (1974)
[a3] J.F. Steffenson, "Interpolation" , Chelsea, reprint (1950)
[a4] G.G. Lorentz, K. Jetter, S.D. Riemenschneider, "Birkhoff interpolation" , Addison-Wesley (1983)
How to Cite This Entry:
Interpolation formula. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by M.K. Samarin (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article