New number and Math features in ES6

This blog post describes the new number and Math features of ECMAScript 6.


You can now specify integers in binary and octal notation:

    > 0xFF // ES5: hexadecimal
    > 0b11 // ES6: binary
    > 0o10 // ES6: octal

The global object Number gained a few new properties. Among others:

  • Number.EPSILON for comparing floating point numbers with a tolerance for rounding errors.
  • A method and constants for determining whether a JavaScript integer is safe (within the signed 53 bit range in which there is no loss of precision).

New integer literals

ECMAScript 5 already has literals for hexadecimal integers:

    > 0x9
    > 0xA
    > 0x10
    > 0xFF

ECMAScript 6 brings two new kinds of integer literals:

  • Binary literals have the prefix 0b or 0B:

        > 0b11
        > 0b100
  • Octal literals have the prefix 0o or 0O (yes, that’s a zero followed by the capital letter O; you’ll be fine if you use the first variant):

        > 0o7
        > 0o10

Remember that the method Number.prototype.toString(radix) can be used to convert numbers back:

    > (255).toString(16)
    > (4).toString(2)
    > (8).toString(8)

Use case for octal literals: Unix-style file permissions

In the Node.js file system module, several functions have the parameter mode. Its value is used to specify file permissions, via an encoding that is a holdover from Unix:

  • Permissions are specified for three categories of users:
    • User: the owner of the file
    • Group: the members of the group associated with the file
    • All: everyone
  • Per category, the following permissions can be granted:
    • r (read): the users in the category are allowed to read the file
    • w (write): the users in the category are allowed to change the file
    • x (execute): the users in the category are allowed to run the file

That means that permissions can be represented by 9 bits (3 categories with 3 permissions each):

User Group All
Permissions r, w, x r, w, x r, w, x
Bit 8, 7, 6 5, 4, 3 2, 1, 0

The permissions of a single category of users are stored in 3 bits:

Bits Permissions Octal digit
000 ––– 0
001 ––x 1
010 –w– 2
011 –wx 3
100 r–– 4
101 r–x 5
110 rw– 6
111 rwx 7

That means that octal numbers are a compact representation of all permissions, you only need 3 digits, one digit per category of users. Two examples:

  • 755 = 111,101,101: I can change, read and execute; everyone else can only read and execute.
  • 640 = 110,100,000: I can read and write; group members can read; everyone can’t access at all.

parseInt() and the new integer literals

parseInt() has the following signature:

    parseInt(string, radix?)

It provides special support for the hexadecimal literal notation – the prefix 0x (or 0X) of string is removed if:

  • radix is missing or 0. Then radix is set to 16.
  • radix is already 16.

For example:

    > parseInt('0xFF')
    > parseInt('0xFF', 0)
    > parseInt('0xFF', 16)

In all other cases, digits are only parsed until the first non-digit:

    > parseInt('0xFF', 10)
    > parseInt('0xFF', 17)

parseInt() does not have special support for binary or octal literals!

    > parseInt('0b111')
    > parseInt('0b111', 2)
    > parseInt('111', 2)
    > parseInt('0o10')
    > parseInt('0o10', 8)
    > parseInt('10', 8)

If you want to parse these kinds of literals, you need to use Number():

    > Number('0b111')
    > Number('0o10')

Alternatively, you can also remove the prefix and use parseInt() with the appropriate radix:

    > parseInt('111', 2)
    > parseInt('10', 8)

New Number constructor properties

This section describes new properties that the constructor Number has picked up in ECMAScript 6.

Previously global functions

Four number-related functions are already available as global functions and have been added (with no or little modifications) to Number, as methods: isFinite, isNaN, parseFloat and parseInt.


Is number an actual number (neither Infinity nor -Infinity nor NaN)?

    > Number.isFinite(Infinity)
    > Number.isFinite(-Infinity)
    > Number.isFinite(NaN)
    > Number.isFinite(123)

The advantage of this method is that it does not coerce its parameter to number (whereas the global function does):

    > Number.isFinite('123')
    > isFinite('123')

Is number the value NaN? Making this check via === is hacky. NaN is the only value that is not equal to itself:

    > let x = NaN;
    > x === NaN

Therefore, this expression is used to check for it

    > x !== x

Using Number.isNaN() is more self-descriptive:

    > Number.isNaN(x)

Number.isNan() also has the advantage of not coercing its parameter to number (whereas the global function does):

    > Number.isNaN('???')
    > isNaN('???')
Number.parseFloat and Number.parseInt

The following two methods work exactly like the global functions with the same names. They were added to Number for completeness sake; now all number-related functions are available there.

  • Number.parseFloat(string)
  • Number.parseInt(string, radix)


Especially with decimal fractions, rounding errors can become a problem in JavaScript. For example, 0.1 and 0.2 can’t be represented precisely, which you notice if you add them and compare them to 0.3 (which can’t be represented precisely, either).

    > 0.1 + 0.2 === 0.3

Number.EPSILON specifies a reasonable margin of error when comparing floating point numbers. It provides a better way to compare floating point values, as demonstrated by the following function.

    function epsEqu(x, y) {
        return Math.abs(x - y) < Number.EPSILON;
    console.log(epsEqu(0.1+0.2, 0.3)); // true


JavaScript has only floating point numbers (doubles). Accordingly, integers are simply floating point numbers without a decimal fraction.

Number.isInteger(number) returns true if number is a number and does not have a decimal fraction.

    > Number.isInteger(-17)
    > Number.isInteger(33)
    > Number.isInteger(33.1)
    > Number.isInteger('33')
    > Number.isInteger(NaN)
    > Number.isInteger(Infinity)

Safe Integers

JavaScript numbers have only enough storage space to represent 53 bit signed integers. That is, integers i in the range −253 < i < 253 are safe. What exactly that means is explained momentarily. The following properties help determine whether a JavaScript integer is safe:

  • Number.isSafeInteger(number)

The notion of safe integers centers on how mathematical integers are represented in JavaScript. In the range (−253, 253) (excluding the lower and upper bounds), JavaScript integers are safe: there is a one-to-one mapping between them and the mathematical integers they represent.

Beyond this range, JavaScript integers are unsafe: two or more mathematical integers are represented as the same JavaScript integer. For example, starting at 253, JavaScript can represent only every second mathematical integer:

    > Math.pow(2, 53)
    > 9007199254740992
    > 9007199254740993
    > 9007199254740994
    > 9007199254740995
    > 9007199254740996
    > 9007199254740997

Therefore, a safe JavaScript integer is one that unambiguously represents a single mathematical integer.

The properties of Number

The two Number properties specifying the lower and upper bound of safe integers could be defined as follows:

    Number.MAX_SAFE_INTEGER = Math.pow(2, 53)-1;

Number.isSafeInteger() determines whether a JavaScript number is a safe integer and could be defined as follows:

    Number.isSafeInteger = function (n) {
        return (typeof n === 'number' &&
            Math.round(n) === n &&
            Number.MIN_SAFE_INTEGER <= n &&
            n <= Number.MAX_SAFE_INTEGER);

For a given value n, this function first checks whether n is a number and an integer. If both checks succeed, n is safe if it is greater than or equal to MIN_SAFE_INTEGER and less than or equal to MAX_SAFE_INTEGER.

Safe results of arithmetic computations

How can we make sure that results of arithmetic computations are correct? For example, the following result is clearly not correct:

    > 9007199254740990 + 3

We have two safe operands, but an unsafe result:

    > Number.isSafeInteger(9007199254740990)
    > Number.isSafeInteger(3)
    > Number.isSafeInteger(9007199254740992)

The following result is also incorrect:

    > 9007199254740995 - 10

This time, the result is safe, but one of the operands isn’t:

    > Number.isSafeInteger(9007199254740995)
    > Number.isSafeInteger(10)
    > Number.isSafeInteger(9007199254740986)

Therefore, the result of applying an integer operator op is guaranteed to be correct only if all operands and the result are safe. More formally:

    isSafeInteger(a) && isSafeInteger(b) && isSafeInteger(a op b)

implies that a op b is a correct result.

Source of this section


The global object Math has several new methods in ECMAScript 6.

Various numerical functionality


Returns the sign of x as -1 or +1. Unless x is either NaN or zero; then x is returned[1].

[1]: While that is something that you normally don’t see, that means that -0 produces the result -0 and +0 produces the result +0.

    > Math.sign(-8)
    > Math.sign(3)
    > Math.sign(0)
    > Math.sign(NaN)
    > Math.sign(-Infinity)
    > Math.sign(Infinity)

Removes the decimal fraction of x.

    > Math.trunc(3.1)
    > Math.trunc(3.9)
    > Math.trunc(-3.1)
    > Math.trunc(-3.9)

Returns the cube root of x (∛x).

    > Math.cbrt(8)

Using 0 instead of 1 with exponentiation and logarithm

A small fraction can be represented more precisely if it comes after zero. I’ll demonstrate this with decimal fractions. (Internally, JavaScript’s floating point numbers are base 2, but externally you see them as base 10. The same basic principles w.r.t. precision apply in either case.) Floating point numbers with base 10 are represented as mantissa × 10exponent. If a zero comes before the dot then small fractions have less significant digits. For example:

  • (A) 0.000000234 = 2.34 × 10−7. Significant digits: 234
  • (B) 1.000000234 = 1.000000234 × 100. Significant digits: 1000000234

Precision-wise, the exponent is not an issue here, the significant digits and the capacity of the mantissa are. That’s why (A) gives you higher precision than (B).

You can see this in the following interaction: The first number (1 × 10−16) registers as different from zero, while the same number added to 1 registers as 1.

    > 1e-16 === 0
    > 1 + 1e-16 === 1

Returns Math.exp(x)-1. The inverse of Math.log1p().

Therefore, this method provides higher precision whenever Math.exp() has results close to 1. You can see the difference between the two in the following interaction:

    > Math.expm1(1e-10)
    > Math.exp(1e-10)-1

The former is the better result, which you can verify by using a library (such as decimal.js) for floating point numbers with arbitrary precision (“bigfloats”):

    > var Decimal = require('decimal.js').config({precision:50});
    > new Decimal(1e-10).exp().minus(1).toString()

Returns Math.log(1 + x). The inverse of Math.expm1().

Therefore, this method lets you specify parameters that are close to 1 with a higher precision.

We have already established that 1 + 1e-16 === 1. Therefore, it is no surprise that the following two calls of log() produce the same result:

    > Math.log(1 + 1e-16)
    > Math.log(1 + 0)

In contrast, log1p() produces different results:

    > Math.log1p(1e-16)
    > Math.log1p(0)

Logarithms to base 2 and 10


Computes the logarithm to base 2.

    > Math.log2(8)

Computes the logarithm to base 10.

    > Math.log10(100)

Support for compiling to JavaScript

Emscripten pioneered a coding style that was later picked up by asm.js: The operations of a virtual machine (think bytecode) are expressed in static subset of JavaScript. That subset can be executed efficiently by JavaScript engines: If it is the result of a compilation from C++, it runs at about 70% of native speed.


Rounds x to a 32 bit floating point value (float). Used by asm.js to tell an engine to internally use a float value.

Math.imul(x, y)

Multiplies the two 32 bit integers x and y and returns the lower 32 bits of the result. This is the only 32 bit basic math operation that can’t be simulated by using a JavaScript operator and coercing the result back to 32 bits. For example, idiv could be implemented as follows:

    function idiv(x, y) {
        return (x / y) | 0;

In contrast, multiplying two large 32 bit integers may produce a double that is so large that lower bits are lost.

Bitwise operations

  • Math.clz32(x)
    Counts the leading zero bits in the 32 bit integer x.

        > Math.clz32(0b01000000000000000000000000000000)
        > Math.clz32(0b00100000000000000000000000000000)
        > Math.clz32(2)
        > Math.clz32(1)

Trigonometric methods

  • Math.sinh(x)
    Computes the hyperbolic sine of x.

  • Math.cosh(x)
    Computes the hyperbolic cosine of x.

  • Math.tanh(x)
    Computes the hyperbolic tangent of x.

  • Math.asinh(x)
    Computes the inverse hyperbolic sine of x.

  • Math.acosh(x)
    Computes the inverse hyperbolic cosine of x.

  • Math.atanh(x)
    Computes the inverse hyperbolic tangent of x.

  • Math.hypot(...values)
    Computes the square root of the sum of squares of its arguments.


Axel Rauschmayer said...

Great post,

I was not aware that some of these features are part of the ES6 specs, as I had already seen them in MDN and Console.


Axel Rauschmayer said...

so if a=9007199254740990,b=3,how to add them

Axel Rauschmayer said...

You can’t. You can either use a library for higher-precision numbers (bigints or bigfloats) or wait until JavaScript has 64 bit integers. But that may take a while.

Axel Rauschmayer said...

Regarding `Number.EPSILON`, it would be nice if there was a `Number.espilonEqual(a, b)` implemented natively

Axel Rauschmayer said...

Good post! Looks like babeljs already supports some of these: https://babeljs.io/docs/learn-es6/

Axel Rauschmayer said...

ES6 making math like C# in 2008

Axel Rauschmayer said...

No 64bit numbers? lol what is this 2005?

Axel Rauschmayer said...

I still miss a `Math.clamp(val, min, max)` which would be the same as `Math.min(max, Math.max(val, min))` since it's too common to need to limit a value inside a range... `Math.lerp(ratio, start, end)` for linear interpolation and `Math.norm(val, start, end)` that is basically the opposite of `lerp`.

I had to implement some of these on MOUT (http://moutjs.com/docs/latest/math.html) because I often need them -- the way we do ceil/floor/round is also very useful in many cases.