Progress Log 103 (R): The True Basics

I’m taking an edX course entitled “Introduction to R for Data Science” and all of the concepts described below come from that course.


  • Basic Arithmetic. We can calculate the sum of 1 and 2 by simply typing 1 + 2 in the console and hitting enter.
    • 1 + 2
  • Text: We can type text in the console by using double quotes and then hitting enter.
    • "Hi there, console!"


  1. A variable allows you to store a value or an object in R. You can use this variable’s name to easily access the value or the object that is stored within this variable.
  2. Creating variables: You use the less than followed by a dash to create a variable.
    • <-
  3. Assigning variables: Suppose the number 2 is the height of a rectangle and 4 is the width. Let’s assign this value 2 to the variable ‘height’ and 4 to the variable of ‘width’.
    • height <- 2
    • width <- 4


  1. As you’re assigning variables in the R console, you’re actually accumulating an R workspace. It’s the place where variables and information are stored in R.
  2. Accessing objects in the workspace: You use the function ls() to show you a list of variables you have created in the R session.
    • ls()
  3. If we try to print out a non-exiting variable, for example, depth. R throws an error.
  4. The principle of accumulating a workspace through variable assignment makes these variables available for further use. Suppose we want to find out the area of our imaginary rectangle, we can calculate the area as follows:
    • height * width
  5. The result is 8 as you would expect. We can take this one step further and also assign the result of this calculation to a new variable, area.
    • area <- height * width
  6. If you now type area, you’ll see that it contains 8 as well.
  7. Inspecting the workspace again with ls, you can see that the workspace contains three objects now: area, height, and width.

R script

  • An R script is a text file containing a collection of successive lines of R code that solve a particular task. When using R, you will build a lot of scripts to make things easier for you, and hopefully automate parts of your work.


  • To comment, you start with the pound sign # followed by the comment.

Cleaning up your workspace

  • Use rm() to remove variables from your workspace.
    • rm(area)


In its most basic form R can be used as a simple calculator. Consider the following arithmetic operators:

  • Addition: +
  • Subtraction: -
  • Multiplication: *
  • Division: /
  • Exponentiation: ^
  • Modulo: %%

The last two might need some explaining:

  • The ^ operator raises the number to its left to the power of the number to its right: for example, 3^2 equals 9.
  • The modulo returns the remainder of the division of the number to the left by the number on its right, for example, 5 modulo 3 or 5 %% 3 equals 2.
Practice 1
Practice 2
Practice 3
Practice 4
Practice 5
Practice 6

Leave a Comment