# Runge-Kutta methods

The

**Runge-Kutta methods** are a family of

numerical analysis techniques used for the approximation of solutions of

ordinary differential equations. They were developed around 1900 by the mathematicians C. Runge and M.W. Kutta. The fourth-order formulation ("RK4") is the most commonly used, since it provides substantial accuracy without excessive complexity.

If y' = f(t,y) is a differential equation and its value at some initial time is specified by y(t_{0}) = y_{0}, then the RK4 method is given by the following equation:

where

Thus, the next value (y

_{n+1}) is determined by the present value (y

_{n}) plus the product of the size of the interval (h) and an estimated slope. The slope is a weighted average of slopes:

- k
_{1} is the slope at the beginning of the interval;
- k
_{2} is the slope at the midpoint of the interval, using slope k_{1} to determine the value of y at the point t_{n} + h/2 using Euler's formula;
- k
_{3} is again the slope at the midpoint, but now using the slope k_{2} to determine the y-value;
- k
_{4} is the slope at the end of the interval, with its y-value determined using k_{3}.

When the four slopes are averaged, more weight is given to the slopes at the midpoint:

Iterative methods in general may be represented by the generic form y

_{n+1} = cy

_{n}, where c is a coefficient that depends upon the method used and the equation being evaluated. The primary reason that the RK4 method is successful is that the coefficient c that it produces is almost always a very good approximation to the actual value. Indeed, the RK4 method has a total accumulated error of

O(h

^{4}).