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How to generate a random number in Elixir

Chinweuba Elijah Azubuike

What is a random number?

A random number is a number chosen at random from a given distribution. Selecting a large number of them reproduces the underlying distribution.

Overview

Elixir lacks a module to produce random numbers. However, it can use underlying Erlang modules like rand (now favored over random) or crypto to select random items from enumerables.

We should note that :rand.uniform(n) returns integers. Enum.random's documentation also claims that it can effectively generate random numbers by choosing a value at random from the range limit.

This allows us to create integers inside range bounds without traversing the entire range.

How to generate random numbers in Elixir

We use the :rand.uniform(n) method to generate random numbers in Elixir.

Syntax

:rand.uniform(n)

Parameters

The :rand.uniform(n) receives a number/integer n as a parameter, which represents a range of 0 to n. For example, if we want a random number between 0 and 50, we pass in n = 50.

Note: The given range is inclusive of 0 and n.

# prints a random number
random_number = :rand.uniform(256)
IO.inspect random_number
A random number between 0 and 256

Example explained

Line 2: We create a variable random_number, where we use :rand.uniform(256). This selects a random number between 0 and 256, and passes it to the random_number variable.

Line 3: We use IO.inspect to generate the output.

Output

Let’s run the code above to see the output as it generates a random number.

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elixir
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Chinweuba Elijah Azubuike
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