While the terms "matrix" and "table" can be used interchangeably, matrixes (or matrices) are considered more flexible than tables. For example, tables generally have a fixed number of rows and columns, while the size of a matrix may change dynamically. The term "matrix" may also be used to refer to a table that has groups of columns within a single row.
In computing, a matrix may be used to store a group of related data. For example, some programming languages support matrixes as a data type that offers more flexibility than a static array. By storing values in a matrix rather than as individual variables, a program can access and perform operations on the data more efficiently.
In mathematics, matrixes are used to display related numbers. Math matrixes are usually presented as a list of numbers within square brackets. A matrix that only contains one row is called a row vector, while a matrix that contains a single column is called a column vector. A matrix that contains the same number of rows as columns (for example, a 4x4 matrix) is called a square matrix.
NOTE: While the term "matrix" has technical meanings in both computing and mathematics, it is also used in everyday speech to describe structured data. For example, a comparison chart may also be called a comparison matrix because it contains a list of values in a grid format.
Updated: July 2, 2013