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Accessing Matrix Elements When Expressed as a Contiguous 1D Array

This post will talk about methods to access different types of matrix elements (diagonals, columns, rows, etc.) when a matrix is expressed as a continguous 1D array.

Recently, I was working on implementing a matrix inversion routine using the Gauss-Jordan elimination technique in C++. This was part of the NMatrix ruby gem, and because of the limitations imposed by trying to interface a dynamic language like Ruby with C++, the elements of the NMatrix object had to expressed as a 1D contiguous C++ array for computation of the inverse.

The in-place Gauss-Jordan matrix inversion technique uses many matrix elements in every pass. Lets see some simple equations that can be used for accessing different types of elements in a matrix in a loop.


Lets say we have a square matrix A with shape M. If k is iterator we are using for going over each diagonal element of the matrix, then the equation will be something like .

A for loop using the equation should look like this:

for (k = 0; k < M; ++k) {
    cout << A[k * (M + 1)];

// This will print all the diagonal elements of a square matrix.


To iterate over each element in a given row of a matrix, use . Here row is the fixed row and col goes from 0 to M-1.


To iterate over each element in a given column of a matrix, use . Here col is the fixed column and row goes from 0 to M-1.


In general the equation will yield a matrix element with row index row and column index col.